October 2, 2009
Remarks of President Barack Obama –
To the International Olympic Committee
October 2, 2009
President Rogge, ladies and gentlemen of the International Olympic Committee:
I come here today as a passionate supporter of the Olympic and Paralympic Games;
as a strong believer in the movement they represent; and a proud Chicagoan. But
above all, I come as a faithful representative of the American people, and we
look forward to welcoming the world to the shores of Lake Michigan and the
heartland of our nation in 2016.
To host athletes and visitors from every corner of the globe is a high honor and
a great responsibility. And America is ready and eager to assume that sacred
trust. We are a nation that has always opened its arms to the citizens of the
world – including my own father – who have sought something better; who have
dreamed of something bigger.
I know you face a difficult choice among several great cities and nations with
impressive bids of their own. So I’ve come here today to urge you to choose
Chicago for the same reasons I chose Chicago nearly twenty-five years ago – the
reasons I fell in love with the city I still call home. And it’s not only
because it’s where I met the woman you just heard from – though after getting to
know her this week, I’m sure you’d all agree that she’s a pretty big selling
You see, growing up, my family moved around a lot. And I never really had roots
in any one place or culture or ethnic group. Then I came to Chicago. And on
those Chicago streets, I worked alongside men and women who were black and
white; Latino and Asian; people of every class and nationality and religion. I
came to discover that Chicago is that most American of American cities, but one
where citizens from more than 130 nations inhabit a rich tapestry of distinctive
Each one of those neighborhoods – from Greektown to the Ukrainian Village; from
Devon to Pilsen to Washington Park – has its own unique character, history,
song, and sometimes language. But each is also a part of our city – one city –
a city where I finally found a home.
Chicago is a place where we strive to celebrate what makes us different just as
we celebrate what we have in common. It’s a place where our unity is on
colorful display at so many festivals, parades, and especially sporting events,
where perfect strangers become fast friends at the sight of the same jersey.
It’s a city that works – from its first World’s Fair more than a century ago to
the World Cup we hosted in the nineties, we know how to put on big events. And
scores of visitors and spectators will tell you that we do it well.
Chicago is a city where the practical and the inspirational exist in harmony;
where visionaries who made no small plans rebuilt after a great fire and taught
the world to reach new heights. It’s a bustling metropolis with the warmth of a
small town; where the world already comes together every day to live and work
and reach for a dream – a dream that no matter who we are or where we’re from;
no matter what we look like or what hand life has dealt us, with hard work, and
discipline, and dedication, we can make it if we try.
That’s not just the American Dream. That is the Olympic spirit. That’s why we
see so much of ourselves in these Games. And that’s why we want them in
Chicago. That’s why we want them in America.
We stand at a moment in history when the fate of each nation is inextricably
linked to the fate of all nations – a time of common challenges that require a
common effort. And I ran for President because I believed deeply that at this
defining moment, the United States of America has a responsibility to help lead
that effort, and to forge new partnerships with the nations and peoples of the
No one expects the Games to solve our collective challenges. But we do believe
that in a world where we have too often witnessed the darker aspects of our
humanity, peaceful competition between nations represents what is best about our
humanity. It brings us together, if only for a few weeks, face to face. It
helps us understand one another just a little better. It reminds us that no
matter how or where we differ, we all seek our own measure of happiness, and
fulfillment, and pride in what we do. And that is a very powerful starting
point for progress.
Nearly one year ago, on a clear November night, people from every corner of the
world gathered in the city of Chicago or in front of their televisions to watch
the results of the U.S. Presidential election. Their interest wasn’t about me
as an individual. Rather, it was rooted in the belief that America’s experiment
in democracy still speaks to a set of universal aspirations and ideals. It
sprung from the hope that in this ever-shrinking world, our diversity could be a
source of strength and cause for celebration; and that with sustained work and
determination, we could learn to live and prosper together during the fleeting
moment we share on this Earth.
That work is far from over, but it has begun in earnest. And while we do not
know what the next few years will bring, there is nothing I would like more than
to step just a few blocks from my family’s home and welcome the world back to
At the beginning of this new century, the nation that has been shaped by people
from around the world wants a chance to inspire it once more; to ignite the
spirit of possibility at the heart of the Olympic and Paralympic movement in a
new generation; to offer a stage worthy of the extraordinary talent and dynamism
offered by nations joined together – to host games that unite us in noble
competition and shared celebration of our limitless potential as a people.
And so I urge you to choose Chicago. I urge you to choose America. And if you
do; if we walk this path together; then I promise you this: the city of Chicago
and the United States of America will make the world proud. Thank you.