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Barack Obama Inspirational Speech (Transcript)

Barack Obama

Full transcript of Barack Obama’s Inspirational Speech – An Advice to Entrepreneurs.


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BARACK OBAMA: Thank you very much. Thank you so much.

Well, I’m so grateful to be a recipient this award, to be keeping such extraordinary company.

I, first of all, want to thank all of you who were involved in making this possible. But the main thing that I want to do here is to just say how I’m inspired by the young people who are represented here. Because I think that’s the purpose ultimately of this foundation.

And I want to tell just a brief story, because Archbishop Tutu is here — one of my heroes — and let you know where I was when I was about your age.

I’m really dating myself now. Although I’m also betting Archbishop, because back in 1979, I was a freshman in college at Occidental College in California.

And I had had a somewhat rocky youth and teenage years. My father wasn’t at home. I was growing up partly with my grandparents in high school. I’d gotten into trouble occasionally, was what my mother called a good time Charlie – meaning I wasn’t really serious in terms of my studies, in terms of my work.

Had some awareness of the world around me. Had some sense of injustice and unfairness. But it wasn’t finally home, it wasn’t well developed.

And I remember in 1979, arriving as a freshman and doing what freshmen do — trying to figure out what courses are and trying to change your study habits and trying to identify about food in the cafeteria, what it is.

And we were visited on campus by a couple of gentlemen from South Africa, who were representatives of the ANC, in 1979-1980. And they spoke about their efforts to overcome apartheid.

And for about an hour, myself and a group of students listened to these young men who were not much older than we were — described the extraordinary struggles they were going through; the sacrifices that were being made. People who were enduring jail and torture and beatings, because they had a sense that somehow, some way, justice would prevail.

And that brief meeting, I think, in some ways changed my life, because what it told me first of all was that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they’re given an opportunity.

We sometimes think that our leaders have to be — have fancy degrees, or well educated, or some public office somewhere. These young men had none of those things.

But what they possessed was an anger over injustice that they were able to channel in a constructive positive way. And I thought to myself that they gave me some sense of the direction that my life might go.

And so I became active in the anti-apartheid movement on campuses. And I’m not sure we were particularly effective as I recall Occidental College continued to refuse to divest, despite the various protests that we organized. The students — I transferred to Columbia and there was similar resistance on Columbia’s campus.

But over time I’d like to think that I was part of that mosaic that applied pressure and ultimately helped those in South Africa achieve the extraordinary liberation, that I would witness almost ten years later as a lawsuit. And I remember the image of Nelson Mandela walking out of prison and understanding that a seminal moment in history had occurred.

And that Mandela’s long march towards freedom was not his alone but was part of thousands of footsteps, of millions of footsteps of people around the world.

And I trace back me getting involved in politics to that moment, because as a consequence of that organizing on a college campus, I became a community organizer. As a consequence of community organizer, I, after going back to law school, became a civil rights attorney.

As consequence of being a civil rights attorney, I entered the state legislature and I now stand before you as a United States Senator and as a candidate for president.

And so the primary message I guess I have in receiving this award is that all of you represent enormous potential, enormous possibility for change, because we all know that injustice still exists. It just exists here in the United States in every four-neighborhood and every inner city and every rural community, all across the country.

There is quiet desperation. Young people’s lives are filled with sadness and desperation, and anarchy and chaos. And obviously all around the world, we see those same symptoms of hopelessness made manifest, in places like Darfur, places like the Middle East, in places that too often are forgotten about and not written about until they flare-up in tragedy.

So I hope that all of you who are on the brink of doing extraordinary things decided to channel that talent and that energy, and that imagination to figuring out how do you move the process along for better history; you know, how do you put your shoulder against the wheel and move that boulder up the hill?

And I’m absolutely confident that if all of you take up that challenge, the world is waiting for you, ready to be changed. Because I think we live in this moment in history right now where the hunger for change, the hunger for something new, the desire to break out of the ordinary, the self-interest of the pedi, the trivial is everywhere. And they are waiting for you.

And so I hope that as you see the recipients of this award, you recognize that it’s actually more of tool to give you a little spark and drive you in the wonderful directions that I hope your lives take in the years to come.

So thank you very much.

Resources for Further Reading:

Barack Obama’s Inauguration Speech 2009 (Full Transcript)

President Barack Obama’s Keynote at 2016 SXSW Interactive (Full Transcript)

Transcript: President Obama’s Full Speech at Rutgers Commencement 2016

Obama at ASU 2012 Commencement Speech with intro by Michael Crow (Full Transcript)

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