Previewing Obama's speech

Obama’s top campaign strategist, David Axelrod, told Politico that Obama’s speech tonight would draw inspiration from 3 historical convention speeches: John F. Kennedy in 1960, Ronald Reagan in 1980, and Bill Clinton in 1992. I’ve dug up text and video of those speeches below, and some snippets that seem to relate to Obama’s campaign themes. Note that JFK also moved his speech outdoors.


John F. Kennedy in 1960: Text here. Video here

Theme of change:

“But we’re not merely running against Mr. Nixon. Our task is not merely one of itemizing Republican failures. Nor is that wholly necessary. For the families forced from the farm do not need to tell us of their plight. The unemployed miners and textile workers know that the decision is before them in November. The old people without medical care, the families without a decent home, the parents of children without a decent school: They all know that it’s time for a change.”

The New Frontier:

“…I’m asking each of you to be pioneers towards that New Frontier. My call is to the young in heart, regardless of age–to the stout in spirit, regardless of Party, to all who respond to the scriptural call: “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be [thou] dismayed.”

Also a risky candidate:

“I am fully aware of the fact that the Democratic Party, by nominating someone of my faith, has taken on what many regard as a new and hazardous risk — new, at least since 1928.”


Ronald Reagan in 1980: Text here. Video here.

Here is a familiar theme:

“More than — More than anything else, I want my candidacy to unify our country, to renew the American spirit and sense of purpose. I want to carry our message to every American, regardless of party affiliation, who is a member of this community of shared values.”

Another one:

“Of all the objectives we seek, first and foremost is the establishment of lasting world peace. We must always stand ready to negotiate in good faith, ready to pursue any reasonable avenue that holds forth the promise of lessening tensions and furthering the prospects of peace. But let our friends and those who may wish us ill take note: the United States has an obligation to its citizens and to the people of the world never to let those who would destroy freedom dictate the future course of life on this planet.”

And would Obama follow Reagan here..?

“I’ll confess that I’ve been a little afraid to suggest what I’m going to suggest. I’m more afraid not to. Can we begin our crusade joined together in a moment of silent prayer?”


Bill Clinton 1992: Text here. Video here.

Here’s another familiar theme:

“Our country has fallen so far so fast that just a few months ago the Japanese prime minister actually said he felt sympathy for the United States. Sympathy. When I am your President (Applause), the rest of the world will not look down on us with pity but up to us with respect again.”

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