In a victory speech that was a tour de force of oratory, invoking the American dream and a vision of the United States beyond its current difficulties, US president Barack Obama told cheering supporters in Chicago: “The best is yet to come”.
Opening by referring to the two centuries of the founding principles and practices of American democracy, Obama not only pledged to pursue a path of bipartisanship but also called on his country to do so, and also paid tribute to all who had stood with him: “you lifted me up…I have listened to you, I have learnt from you, you made me a better president”.
Obama dwelt on the meaning of politics, contrasting his vision of its importance to the view that political campaigns “can be small, even silly”, a contest of egos or among special interests.
He said that democracy in a nation of 300 million people could be noisy, messy and complicated as there were clashes among deeply held beliefs. This could stir passions and controversies, and that should not change after tonight, Obama said, pointing his audience to the people “in distant countries” who were risking their lives for just such democratic rights.
Invoking the theme of hope, referencing not only his 2012 campaign but his victorious path in the previous presidential election, Obama spoke of a vision of universal access to education, a deficit brought under control, and noted that the economy was recovering and that a decade of war was ending.
Obama said that people had voted for action, not words, but at the same time – in an apparent reference to the well-known clarion call by John F Kennedy – said that the duty of the citizen did not end with voting.
What made America exceptional was the bonds that held together the most diverse nation on earth, Obama said.
Returning again to the theme of hope, he said that he had never been more hopeful, and spoke of hope not as blind optimism or idealism, but as “that stubborn thing within” that keeps people endeavouring.
And again pledging bipartisanship and paying tribute to the possibilities of America’s people, Obama said, “we are not as divided as our politics suggest”.