Obama closing argument speech. Transcript as delivered.

SHARE Obama closing argument speech. Transcript as delivered.

Transcript courtesy Federal News Service….



1:17 P.M. EDT, MONDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2008

SEN. OBAMA: Thank you, Canton. Thank you so much. I am so grateful to all of you for taking the time to be here today on a, on a Monday morning. (Cheers, applause.) Just a couple of special acknowledgements that I want to make before we get started. I love you back. Thank you. (Cheers, applause.)

I — first of all, candidate for State House, Celeste DeHoff — please give her a big round of applause. (Cheers, applause.) Canton City Council President Allen Schulman. (Cheers, applause.) The mayor of Canton, Jamey Healy. (Cheers, applause.) State senator and Canton’s next congressman, John Boccieri. (Cheers, applause.) And visiting from Akron, the mayor of Akron, Don Plusquellic. (Cheers, applause.) And thanks to all of you for taking the time to be here. I am very grateful to all the people of Canton — (cheers, applause) — for your hospitality.

One week. (Cheers, applause.) One week. (Cheers, applause.)

After decades of broken politics in Washington, eight years of failed policies from George Bush and twenty-one months of a campaign that has taken us from the rocky coast of Maine to the sunshine of California and everywhere in between, we are one week away from changing America. (Cheers, applause.)

In one week, you can turn the page on policies that have put greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street before the hard work and sacrifice of folks right here in Canton, folks right on Main Street. (Cheers, applause.)

In one week, you can choose. You can choose policies that invest in our middle-class and create new jobs and grow this economy from the bottom-up, so that everyone has a chance to succeed, from the CEO to the secretary and the janitor, from the factory owner to the men and women on the factory floor. In one week. (Cheers, applause.)

In one week, you can put an end to the politics that would divide a nation, just to win an election; that tries to pit region against region and city against town, Republican against Democrat; that asks us to fear at a time when we need hope. In one week, at this defining moment in history, you can give this country the change we need. You can do that. (Cheers, applause.)

You know, we began this journey in the depths of winter, nearly two years ago, on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, the place where Abraham Lincoln served for so many years.

You know, back then, we didn’t have much money and we didn’t have many endorsements. We weren’t given much of a chance by the polls or the pundits. And we knew how steep our climb would be.

But I also knew this. I knew that the size of our challenges had outgrown the smallness of our politics. I believed that Democrats and Republicans and Americans of every political stripe were hungry for new ideas and new leadership and a new kind of politics, one that favors common sense over ideology, one that focuses on those values and ideals we hold in common as Americans. (Cheers, applause.)

Most of all, I believed in you. I believed in your ability to make change happen. I knew that the American people were a decent, generous people who are willing to work hard and sacrifice for future generations. (Cheers, applause.)

And I was absolutely convinced that when we come together, our voices are more powerful than the most entrenched lobbyists or the most vicious political attacks — (cheers) — or the full force of a status quo in Washington that wants to keep things just the way they are. (Cheers, applause.)

And Canton, 21 months later, my faith in the American people has been vindicated. That’s how we’ve come so far, how we’ve come so close — because of you. That’s how we’ll change this country — with your help. That’s why we cannot afford to slow down or sit back. We cannot let up for one day, or one minute, or one second in this last week. (Cheers, applause.) Not now, not when there’s so much is at stake. One week. (Cheers, applause.)

We are in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. I don’t have to tell you, Ohio; 760,000 workers have lost their jobs so far this year. Businesses and families can’t get credit. Home values are falling. Pensions are disappearing. Wages are lower than they’ve been in a decade, at a time when the cost of everything from health care to college have never been higher. It’s getting harder and harder to make the mortgage, or fill up your gas tank, or even keep the electricity on at the end of the month.

At a moment like this, the last thing we can afford is four more years of the tired, worn-out, old theory — (cheers) — that says — that says we should give more to billionaires and big corporations and hope that prosperity trickles down on everybody else. The last thing — the last thing we can afford is four more years where no one in Washington is watching anyone on Wall Street because politicians and lobbyists killed common-sense regulations. (Cheers.) Those are the theories that got us into this mess. They haven’t worked, and it is time for change. And that’s why I’m running for president of the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)

Now, Senator McCain has served this country honorably. And Senator McCain can point to a few moments, like torture, where he has broken with George Bush over the past eight years. He deserves credit for that. He deserves credit for that.

But when it comes to the economy — when it comes to the central issue of our time, the central issue of this election — the plain truth is that John McCain has stood with this president every step of the way, voting for the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy that he once opposed; voting for the Bush budgets that spent us into debt; calling for less regulation 21 times just this year.

Those are the facts.

And now after 21 months and three debates, Senator McCain still has not been able to tell the American people a single major thing he’d do differently from George Bush when it comes to the economy. (Cheers, applause.) Not one thing. Senator McCain says we can’t spend the next four years waiting for our luck to change, but you understand that the biggest gamble we can take is to embrace the same old Bush-McCain policies that have failed us for the last eight years. (Cheers, applause.) We can’t afford to take that risk.

It’s not change when John McCain wants to give a $700,000 tax cut to the average Fortune 500 CEO. It’s not change when he wants to give $200 billion to the biggest corporations or $4 billion to the oil companies or 300 billion (dollars) to the same Wall Street banks that got us into this mess. (Boos.) It’s not change when he comes up with a tax plan that doesn’t give a penny of relief to more than 100 million middle-class Americans. That is not change. (Applause.)

So look, Ohio, we have tried it John McCain’s way. We have tried it George Bush’s way. And deep down — deep down, Senator McCain knows that, which is why his campaign said that “if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” (Applause.) That’s why he’s spending these last weeks calling me every name in the book — (boos) — because that’s how you play the game in Washington. If you can’t beat your opponent’s ideas, you distort those ideas and maybe make some up. (Boos, applause.) If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run away from. You make — you make a big election about small things.

Ohio, we’re here to say not this time, not this year — (cheers, applause) — not when so much is at stake. (Cheers, applause.) John McCain might be worried about losing an election, but I’m worried about Americans who are losing their homes and their jobs and their life savings. (Cheers, applause.) I can take one more week of John McCain’s attacks, but this country can’t take four more years of the same failed politics — (cheers) — and the same failed policies. It’s time to try something new. (Cheers, applause.) It is time, Canton, to try something new. (Cheers.)

The question in this election is not are you better off than you were four years ago. We all know the answer to that. The real question is, will this country be better off four years from now? (Cheers, applause.)

I know these are difficult times. They’re difficult times for Ohio; they’re difficult times for America. But I also know that we’ve faced difficult times before. The American story has never been about things coming easy, it’s been about rising to the moment when the moment was hard. It’s about seeing the highest mountaintop from the deepest of valleys. It’s about rejecting fear and division for unity of purpose.

That’s how we overcame war and depression. That’s how we’ve won great struggles for civil rights and women’s rights and workers’ rights. That’s how we’ll emerge from this crisis stronger and more prosperous than we were before, as one nation and as one people. (Cheers, applause.)

Remember, we still have the most talented, most productive workers of any country on Earth. We’re still home to innovation and technology, colleges and universities that are the envy of the world. Some of the biggest, brightest ideas in history have come from our small businesses; in the back of somebody’s garage, in our research facilities.

So there’s no reason we can’t make this century another American century. We just need —


SEN. OBAMA: — we just need a new direction. We just need a new politics.

Now, understand, I don’t believe that government can or should try to solve all our problems. You don’t believe that either. But I do believe that government should do that which we cannot do for ourselves — protect us from harm; provide a decent education for all children — (cheers, applause); invest in new roads and new bridges, in new science and technology. (Applause.) Our government should reward drive and innovation and encourage growth in the free market, but it should also make sure businesses live up to their responsibility to create American jobs, and look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road. (Cheers, applause.)

It should ensure a shot at success, not just for those with money and power and influence, but for every single American who’s willing to work. That’s how we create not just more millionaires or more billionaires, but how we create more middle-class families. That’s how we make sure businesses have customers that can afford their products or services. That’s how we’ve always grown the American economy — from the bottom-up. John McCain calls this socialism.

I call it opportunity. (Cheers, applause.) And there is nothing more American than that. (Cheers, applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama!

SEN. OBAMA: Thank you.


SEN. OBAMA: Look, if we want get through this crisis — if we want to get through this crisis, we need to get beyond the old ideological debates and divides between the left and the right. We don’t need bigger government or smaller government. We need better government. (Cheers.) We need a more competent government. We need a government that upholds the values we hold in common as Americans.

We don’t have to choose between allowing our financial system to collapse and spending billions of dollars of taxpayer money to bail out Wall Street banks. As president, I will ensure the financial rescue plan helps stop foreclosures and protects your money instead of enriching CEOs. (Cheers, applause.) And I’ll put in place the common- sense regulations that I’ve been calling for throughout this campaign so that Wall Street can never cause a crisis like this again. That’s the change we need. (Applause.)

The choice — the choice in this election isn’t between tax cuts and no tax cuts. It’s about whether you believe we should only reward wealth, or whether we should also reward the workers (sic) and workers who create wealth. (Cheers, applause.) I will give a tax break to 95 percent of Americans who work every day and get taxes taken out of their paychecks every week. (Cheers, applause.) I’ll eliminate income taxes for seniors making under $50,000. (Cheers, applause.) And we’re going to give homeowners and working parents more of a break. (Cheers, applause.) And yes, I’ll help pay for this by asking the folks who are making more than $250,000 a year to go back to the tax rate they were paying in the 1990s. (Cheers, applause.)

No matter what John McCain may claim, here are the facts. If you make under $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increase by a single dime; not your income taxes, not your payroll taxes, not your capital gains taxes. No taxes. Because the last thing we should do in this economy is raise taxes on the middle class. (Applause.) And we have been saying that throughout this campaign.

Now, when it comes to jobs, the choice in this election is not between putting up a wall around America or allowing every job to disappear overseas. The truth is, we won’t be able to bring back every single job that we’ve lost here in Ohio or across the country, but that doesn’t mean we should follow John McCain’s plan to keep giving tax breaks to corporations that send American jobs overseas. (Cheers.)

I will end those breaks as president. (Cheers, applause.) I will give American businesses a $3,000 tax credit for every job they create right here in Ohio, right here in the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)

I’ll eliminate capital gains taxes for small businesses and start-up companies that are the engine of job creation in this country. We’ll create 2 million new jobs by rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges and schools, by laying broadband lines to reach every corner of the country.

And I will invest $15 billion a year in renewable sources of energy — (cheers, applause) — to create 5 million new energy jobs over the next decade — jobs that pay well; jobs that can’t be outsourced; jobs building solar panels and wind turbines and a new electricity grid — (cheers, applause continue) — jobs building the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow, not in Japan, not in South Korea but right here in the U.S. of A. — (sustained cheers, applause) — jobs that will help us eliminate the oil we import from the Middle East in 10 years and help save the planet in the bargain. That’s how America can lead again.

When it comes to health care, we don’t have to choose between a government-run health care system and the unaffordable one we have now. If you already have health insurance, the only thing that will change under my plan is that we will lower your premiums. (Cheers, applause.) If you don’t have health insurance, you’ll be able to get the same kind of health insurance that members of Congress give themselves. (Cheers, applause.)

We’ll invest in preventive care and new technology to finally lower the cost of health care for families and businesses and the entire economy. And as someone — as someone who watched his own mother spend the final months of her life arguing with insurance companies because they claimed her cancer was a pre-existing condition and they didn’t want to pay for her treatment, I will stop insurance companies from discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most. You can count on that. (Cheers, applause.)

When it comes to giving every child a world-class education — (applause) — so they can compete in this global economy for the jobs of the 21st century, the choice is not between more money and more reform, because our schools need both. As president, I will invest in early childhood education — (cheers, applause) — to close the achievement gap. We’ll recruit an army of new teachers. We’ll pay them more money. We’ll give them more support. (Cheers, applause.)

But I will also demand higher standards and more accountability from everybody, from our teachers and principals and our schools. (Cheers, applause.) And I will make a deal with every young American who has the drive and the will but not the money to go to college: If you commit to serving your community or your country in national service, we will make sure you can afford your tuition. (Cheers, applause.)

You invest in America; America will invest in you. Together we’ll move this country forward.

When it comes to keeping this country safe, we don’t have to choose between retreating from the world and fighting a war without end in Iraq. It is time to stop spending $10 billion a month, in Iraq, while the Iraqi government sits on a huge surplus. (Cheers, applause.)

As president, I will end this war, by asking — (cheers, applause) — by asking the Iraqi government to step up, and finally finish the fight against bin Laden and the al Qaeda terrorists who attacked us on 9/11.

I will never hesitate to defend this nation. But I will only send our troops into harm’s way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home. We will treat our veterans with honor and respect. (Cheers, applause.)

I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again viewed as that last, best hope for all, who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, who yearn for a better future.

Now, Canton, I won’t stand here and pretend that any of this will be easy, especially now. The cost of this economic crisis, the cost of the war in Iraq means that Washington will have to tighten its belt and put off spending on things we can afford to do without.

On this, there is no other choice. As president, I will go through the federal budget, line by line, ending programs that we don’t need and making the ones we do need work better and cost less.

But as I’ve said from the day we began this journey, all those months ago, the change we need isn’t just about new programs and policies. It’s about a new attitude. It’s about new politics, a politics that calls on our better angels, instead of encouraging our worst instincts, one that reminds us of the obligations we have to ourselves and one another.

Part of the reason this economic crisis occurred is, because we have been living through an era of profound irresponsibility. On Wall Street, easy money and an ethic of “what’s good for me is good enough” blinded greedy executives to the dangers in decisions that they were making. On Main Street, lenders tricked people into buying homes they couldn’t afford. Some folks knew they couldn’t afford those houses and bought them anyway.

In Washington, politicians spent money they didn’t have and allowed lobbyists to set the agenda.


SEN. OBAMA: They scored political points instead of solving our problems.


SEN. OBAMA: And even after the greatest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor, all we were asked to do by our president was to go out and shop. That’s why what we’ve lost in these last eight years can’t be measured just by lost wages or bigger trade deficits.

What’s also been lost is the idea that in this American story, each of us has a role to play. Each of us have responsibilities to work hard, to look after ourselves and our families, and each of us has a responsibility to look out for each other, our fellow citizens. (Cheers, applause.) That’s what’s been lost these last eight years, our common sense of purpose, our sense of higher purpose. That’s what we need to restore right now. That’s one of the reasons I’m running for president of the United States of America. (Cheers, sustained applause.)

So yes, government must lead the way on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient. Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair, but all of us have to do our part as parents, to turn off the TV set and read to our children, to take responsibility for providing love and guidance. (Cheers, applause.)

Yes, we can argue and debate our positions passionately, but all of us must summon the strength and grace to bridge our differences and unite in common effort — black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; Democrat, Republican; young, old; rich, poor, gay, straight; disabled or not. All of us have to come together. (Cheers, sustained applause.)

Ohio, in this election, we cannot afford the same political games and tactics that are being used to pit us against one another, to make us afraid of one another. The stakes are too high to divide us by class and region and background; by who we are or what we believe. Because, despite what our opponents may claim, there are no real or fake parts of this country. There is no city or town that is more pro-America than anywhere else. (Cheers, applause. We’re one nation, all of us proud, all of us patriots. (Cheers, applause.)

There are patriots who supported this war in Iraq and patriots who opposed it; patriots who believe in Democratic policies and those who believe in Republican policies. The men and women who serve in our battlefields — some may be Democrats, some may be Republicans, others independents, but they fought together and they bled together, and some died together, under the same proud flag. (Cheers, applause.)

They have not served a red America or a blue America. They served the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)

It won’t be easy, Ohio. It won’t be easy; it won’t be quick. But you and I know that it is time to come together and change this country. (Cheers.) Some of you may be cynical. Some of you may be fed up with politics. A lot of you may be disappointed and even angry with your leaders, and you have every right to be. But despite all of this — (applause) — I ask of you what has been asked of Americans throughout our history. I ask you to believe, not just in my ability to bring about change, but in yours.

I know this change is possible, because I’ve seen it — I’ve seen it over the last 21 months — because in this campaign, I’ve had the privilege to witness what is best in America. I’ve seen it in the lines of voters that stretched around schools and churches; in the young people who cast their ballots for the first time — (applause) — and those not so young folks who got involved again after a very long time. I’ve seen it in the workers who would rather cut back their hours than see their friends lose their jobs; in the neighbors who take in a stranger when the floodwaters rise; in the soldiers who reenlist after losing a limb. I’ve seen it in the faces of the men and women I’ve met at countless rallies and town halls across the country, men and women who speak of their struggles but also of their hopes, of their dreams.

I still remember the e-mail that a woman named Robyn sent me after I met her in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Sometime after our event, her son nearly went into cardiac arrest. He was diagnosed with a heart condition that could only be treated with a procedure that cost tens of thousands of dollars. Her insurance company refused to pay, and their family didn’t have that kind of money.

In her e-mail, Robyn wrote, “I ask only this of you — on the days where you feel so tired you can’t think of uttering another word to the people, think of us. When those who oppose you have you down, reach deep and fight back harder.” (Cheers, applause.)

Ohio, that’s what hope is — (cheers, applause) — that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better is waiting around the bend — (cheers, applause) — that insists there are better days ahead if we’re willing to work for it; if we’re willing to shed our fears and our doubts; if we’re willing to reach deep down inside ourselves when we’re tired, when we’re worn out and we come back fighting harder. (Cheers, applause.)

Hope — that’s what kept some of our parents and grandparents going when times were tough, what led them to say, “Maybe I can’t go to college, but if I save a little bit each week my child can go to college — (applause) — maybe I can’t have my own business but if I work really hard my child can open one of her own.” Hope — it’s what led immigrants from distant lands to come to these shores against great odds and carve a new life for their families in America; what led those who couldn’t vote to march and organize and stand for freedom — (cheers, applause) — that led them to cry out, “It may look dark tonight, but if I hold on to hope, tomorrow will be brighter.”

That’s what this election is about. That’s the choice we face right now. (Cheers, applause.)

Canton, don’t believe for a second this election is over. Don’t think for a minute that power concedes. We have a lot of work to do. We have to work like our future depends on it, in this last week, because it does depend on it this week. (Cheers, applause.)

In one week’s time, we can choose an economy that rewards work and creates new jobs and fuels prosperity from the bottom up. In one week, we can choose to invest in health care for our families and education for our kids and renewable energy for our future.

In one week, we can choose hope over fear and unity over division, the promise of change over the power of the status quo. In one week, we can come together, as one nation and one people, and once more choose our better history. (Cheers, applause.)

That’s what’s at stake. That’s what we’re fighting for. And if in this last week, you will knock on some doors for me and make some calls for me and talk to your neighbors and convince your friends; if you will stand with me and fight with me and give me your vote, then I promise you, we will not just win Ohio; we will win this general election. And together we’ll change this country and we will change the world.

God bless you. God bless the United States of America. Let’s get to work. (Cheers, applause.)


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