Barack Obama photo

Remarks in Columbia, Missouri

October 30, 2008

Thank you for having us here tonight in this place, named for a good and principled man and an extraordinary public servant, someone who was as proud of his tenure on the local school board as his time as governor of this great state, the late Mel Carnahan.


OBAMA: His legacy lives on in the service of his wife, Senator Jean Carnahan, and all their children, so many of them in public service.

I can't think of a more fitting tribute to his life than to gather here tonight with so many people who love this country so much, and are so determined to bring about the change that we need.

OBAMA: Now, Mizzou, I just have two words for you tonight: five days.

OBAMA: Five days.

After decades of broken politics in Washington, and eight years of failed policies from George W. Bush, and 21 months of a campaign that's taken us from the rocky coast of Maine to the sunshine of California, we are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.

OBAMA: In five days, you can turn the page on policies that put greed and irresponsibility on Wall Street before the hard work and sacrifice of folks on Main Street.

In five days, you can choose policies that invest in our middle class, and create new jobs, and grow this economy, so that everyone has a chance to succeed, not just the CEO, but the secretary and janitor, not just...


OBAMA: ... the factory owner, but the men and women on the factory floor.


OBAMA: In five days, 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, and Republican against Democrat, that asks -- asks us to fear at a time when we need to hope.

In five days, at this defining moment in history, you can give this country the change we need.

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.

And, back then...


OBAMA: There you go, Illinois in the house.


OBAMA: Back then, we didn't have a lot of money. We didn't have a lot of endorsements. We weren't given much of a chance by the polls or the pundits. We knew how steep our climb would be.

But I also knew this. I knew the size of our challenges had outgrown the smallness of our politics. And I believed the Democrats and Republicans, Americans of every political stripe, that they were hungry for new ideas and new leadership and a new kind of politics... (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: ... one that favors commonsense over ideology, one that focuses on values and ideals that we hold in common as Americans.


OBAMA: And I knew the American people. I knew that the American people are a decent and generous people, willing to work hard and sacrifice for future generations.

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


OBAMA: Twenty-one months later, my faith in the American people has been vindicated. That's how we have come so far and so close, because of you. That's how we will change this country, with your help.


OBAMA: And that's why we can't afford, right now, to slow down, or sit back, or let up for one day, one minute, one second of the next five day, not now, not when there's so much at stake.


OBAMA: We have got to go win an election right here in Missouri.


OBAMA: Now, we're -- we're in the -- we're in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression -- 760,000 workers have lost their jobs so far this year. And that means a lot of young people are concerned about their job prospects when they graduate.


OBAMA: Businesses and families can't get credit. Home values are plummeting. Pensions are disappearing. It's gotten harder to get -- to make a mortgage, or fill up your gas tank, or even keep the electricity on at the end of the month.

Just today, we learned that the GDP, the gross domestic product, a key indicator economists use to measure the health of our economy, has actually fallen for the first time this year. And that means we're producing less and we're selling less. So, our economy is actually shrinking.

Now, this didn't happen by accident. Our falling GDP is a direct result of eight years of failed economic policies, eight years of trickle-down, Wall Street-first, Main Street-last policies that have driven our economy into a ditch.

And the central question in this election is, what will our next president do to take us in a different direction?

Now, if you want to know where Senator McCain will drive this economy...


OBAMA: You don't need to boo. You just need to vote.


OBAMA: If...


OBAMA: If you want to know where Senator McCain wants to drive the economy, just look in the rear-view mirror...


OBAMA: ... because, when it comes to our economic policies, John McCain, he's ridden shotgun next to George Bush every step of the way, 90 percent...


OBAMA: ... voting for the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy that he said he opposed, voting for the Bush budgets that sent us into debt, calling for less regulation 21 times just this year.

And, so, 21 months and three debates later, John McCain still cannot describe, can't tell the American people a single major thing he would do differently from George Bush when it comes to the economy.

I mean, think about it. You guys have been seeing these ads, right?


OBAMA: Do you have any idea what John McCain stands for?




OBAMA: Because he spends all his time talking about me. You've got to ask yourself -- you've got to ask yourself, after nine straight months of job losses, the largest drop in home values on record, wages lower than they've been in a decade, why would we think about continuing to drive down this dead-end street with John McCain?

Folks who can't pay their medical bills, or send their kids to college or you not being able to afford college, or thinking about that 30 or 40 or $50,000 worth of debt that you might have to carry. People who can't save for retirement. You know, ordinary Americans, we can't take a back seat to CEOs and Wall Street banks for four more years.

At a moment like this, we don't need the same old, tired, stale theories that say we should give more and more money to billionaires and millionaires and big corporations and hope that prosperity trickles down on everybody else. We can't afford four more years where no one in Washington is watching anyone on Wall Street. So lobbyists just kill common-sense regulations. Those are the economic theories that got us into this mess, that have not worked. It's time for a new driver behind the wheel, and that's why I'm running for president of the United States of America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

OBAMA: The biggest gamble we can take is TO embrace the same old Bush-McCain policies that have failed us for the last eight years. 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 corporation or $4 billion to the oil companies when today, Exxon-Mobil announced that it had made the greatest profits of any corporation in the history of the world: $14 billion in one quarter. That's all your money. You are -- you are paying it at the gas station. That's not change when John McCain comes up with a tax plan that doesn't give a penny of relief to more than 100 million middle-class Americans.

Now, I understand what's at stake here, and especially you young people because you're going to be going into the workforce. You have to understand what's happening. The average working family is $2,000 poorer now than when George Bush took office. When Bill Clinton was president, the average -- when Bill Clinton was president, the average wage went up, the average income went up $7,500.

Now, I've got an economic plan similar to Bill Clinton's. John McCain has got an economic plan similar to George Bush's. So we've had a 16-month -- a 16-year experiment: eight years of Bush-McCain economics, eight years of the kind of Clinton-Obama economics that we are looking to reinstitute. We know what works. We tried it John McCain's way. We tried it George Bush's way. It did not work.

And deep down Senator McCain knows that, which is why his campaign said the other day that if we keep on talking about the economy, we're going to lose, which is why I keep on talking about the economy.

That's why John McCain's spending these last weeks calling me every name in the book. They can't even decide what to call me. They can't decide on a single angle. So, you know -- but you know what, that's how the game is played in Washington. You make a big election about small things. But, Missouri, we're here to say not this time, not this year, not when there's so much at stake.

John McCain might be worried about losing an election. I'm worried about people losing their homes and losing their jobs and losing their life savings and losing your scholarships and losing your student loans. I can take five more days of John McCain's attacks. This country can't take four more years of John McCain's economic theories. That's why I'm running for president of the United States. It's time for something new.

The question in this election isn't are you better off than you were four years ago? We know the answer to that. The real question is will this country be better off four years from now?

Now, I know these are difficult times. I know these are difficult times, and I know a lot of people are anxious about the future. But remember, we faced difficult times before.

The American story has never been about things coming easy. It's been about rising at the moment when times are tough. It's about rejecting fear and division for unity and purpose. It's about digging deep down and finding in ourselves what's best in America. That's how we overcame war and depression. That's how we won the 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 one people.

We just need a new direction. We just need a new politics. We need a new driver behind the wheel. And that's why I'm running for president of the United States of America.

Now, understand, if we get through this crisis, we're also going to need to get behind the old ideological debates that divide left and right. That's one of the great things about young people. You're not burdened with some of these old arguments. They've been going on for years. You know, we don't need, for example, bigger government or smaller government. We need better government, smarter government, a more competent government, a government that reflects our values.

We don't have to choose between letting our financial system and the marketplace run wild or stifling growth and innovation. As president, I will insure that the financial rescue package, for example, that Congress passed works to help stop foreclosures, protects taxpayer money, doesn't enrich CEOs, stabilizes the financial system. And I will put in place common-sense regulations that I've been calling for throughout this campaign so Wall Street can never cause this crisis again. But we will still have a free market system that rewards innovation and rewards growth. That's the kind of change that we need.

We don't need these false choices that we've been hearing about out of Washington for 20, 30 years. The choice in this election isn't between tax cuts and no tax cuts. It's whether -- whether you believe we should only reward wealth or whether we should also reward work and the workers who create.

See, I'm planning to give a tax break to 95 percent of Americans who work everyday and get their taxes taken out of their paycheck every week. And I'm going to eliminate taxes for seniors who are making less than $50,000 and give homeowners and working parents more of a break.

Now, John McCain has attacked me, because to help pay for tax cuts for 95 percent of Americans, I'm going to be asking folks who make more than a quarter million dollars a year to go back to the tax rate they were paying in the 1990s under Bill Clinton.

Now, let me just -- let me just see a show of hands. How many people make less than a quarter million dollars a year? All right. You're not raising your hand, so I'm going to look for a campaign contribution from you.

Now, it looks like, I think, a lot of people here fall in that category. Now, no matter what Senator McCain may claim, here are the facts: if you make less than a quarter million dollars a year, you will not see your taxes increase by a single dime, not your income tax or payroll tax, not your capital gains tax, nothing. Because the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle class, and the first thing we should do is give the teacher the break or the nurse the break or the cop the break or the firefighter the break. That's who needs a break.

John McCain calls that socialism. Redistribution, he says. I guess he's looking to check if, when I was in kindergarten, I shared my toys or I shared my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I don't know when we decided to make a virtue out of selfishness. I think there's nothing wrong with us saying we want every single American to have opportunity. That's what this country is all about. That's what will grow this economy. That's what I'm going to fight for as president of the United States of America.

When it comes to jobs, the choice in this election is not between putting a wall up around America or standing by and doing nothing. The truth is, we won't be able to bring back every job that's been lost. But that doesn't mean we should do what John McCain wants to do: keep giving tax cuts to companies that ship jobs overseas, promote unfair trade agreements.

We're going to change our trade relationship, when I'm president, to make sure that American workers are getting a decent deal. And I'm going to make sure that we end those tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas, and we're going to give tax breaks to companies that invest right here in the United States of America.

We're going to eliminate capital gains tax for small businesses. Small business and start-ups, they're the engines of job creation in this country. And we'll create two million new jobs by rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges and schools, laying broadband lines to reach every corner of Missouri and every corner of the country.

And I will invest $15 billion in renewable sources of energy to create five million new energy jobs over the next decade. Jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced. Jobs building solar panels and wind turbines, a new electricity grid. Jobs building the new fuel- efficient cars of the future right here in the United States of America. Jobs that will help us eliminate the oil we import from the Middle East in ten 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's going to change is we're going to help lower your premiums.

Now, if you are a young person up to the age of 25, we're going to make sure you can stay on your parents' health insurance. And once you -- once you're older than that and you don't have health insurance on the job, you'll be able to buy in and get the same kind of health insurance that members of Congress get for themselves.

And 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, they didn't want to pay for her treatment. I know what it's like to see a loved one suffer, not just because they're sick but because of a broken health-care system. It is wrong. And when I am president, I'm going to stop insurance companies from discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most. That is a promise that I make to the American people.

When it comes to giving every child a world-class education, the choice is not between more money and more reform, because our schools need both. So as president I want to invest in early childhood education to close the achievement gap. And I want to recruit and army of new teachers, give them higher salaries, give them more support, expect higher standards and more accountability.

And I will make a deal with every one of the young people who are here today and all across America. If you are willing to participate in national service, if you are willing to serve in the military or the Peace Corps, work in veterans' home or a homeless shelter, whatever moves you, whatever kind of service you want to provide your community and your country, we are going to make sure you can afford your tuition, no ifs, ands or buts.

And finally, 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. As president, I will end this war.

I will end this war by asking the Iraqi government to step up, and then we can finally finish the fight against bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorists who killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11.

I'll never hesitate to defend this nation. We'll make sure that our ground troops have the equipment that they need, that they remain the finest fighting force in the world.

You know, when you watch our soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, you realize they have done everything that's been asked of them. And that's why they need a commander in chief who will make sure that we use our military wisely, that our men and women have the best training and the best equipment and that they receive the best care and benefits that they have earned when they come home. No more homeless veterans. No more begging for disability payments. We will treat them with honor and respect.

Now, I won't stand here and pretend that any of this is going to be easy, especially now. George Bush has dug a deep hole. He is trying to hand off that shovel to John McCain. The cost of this crisis, the cost of the war in Iraq means that Washington is going to have to tighten its belt. It's going to have to put off spending on some things we don't need.

You know, one of the things that we've seen over the last eight years is this incredible spending binge, this irresponsibility that you guys are expected to pay back. Mounting national debt, mounting deficits, and you don't have anything to show for it.

So as president, I'm going to go through the federal budget line by line, ending programs we don't need, making the ones we do need work better and cost less. We've got to make sure that we are not charging a credit card to the next generation, borrowing from China just pay off our dependence on foreign oil.

But as I've said from the day we began this journey, the change we need isn't just about new programs and new policies. It's also about a new attitude, a new politics, a politics that calls on our better angels instead of encouraging our worst instincts.

Yes, that's what we've lost these last eight years. It can't be measured just by lost wages or bigger trade deficits or number of foreclosures. What's been lost is the idea that, in this American story, each of us has a role to play. I look at all these young people here tonight. Each of you have a responsibility to work hard and look after yourselves and eventually your families. But each of you also have a responsibility to your country, a duty to your fellow citizens. That's what we need to restore now, our sense of common purpose, our sense of higher purpose.

You know, government has to lead the way on energy independence. But all of you can make a difference in how you live your lives to make sure we're more energy efficient. You know, we can put more money in the schools, but government can't be the parent who turns off the TV set and makes a child do their homework at night. That's a parent's job.

We can argue and debate our positions passionately. But all of us have to summon a restored strength and grace, a civility to bridge our differences and unite in common effort black, white, Asian, Native American, Democrat, Republican, young, old, rich, poor, gay, straight, disabled, not disabled, all of us coming together, all of us around common effort.

At this time, at this moment, we can't afford the same old political games, the same nasty ads, the same underhanded tactics that are used to pit us against one another, make us afraid of one another. Despite what our opponents claim, there's are no real or fake parts in America. There's no city or town that's more pro-America than anywhere else. We're one nation. All of us are proud. All of us are patriots.

The men and women who serve on our battlefields, they may be Democrats and Republicans and independents, but they've all fought together and bled together, some dying together under the same proud flag. They haven't served a red America or a blue America. They've served the United States of America.

Now, this change -- this change I'm talking about won't be easy, and it won't be quick. But you and I know it's time. I look at this younger generation. You'd especially know that it's time. You can remake the world. You imagine not what is but what might be.

And for those a little older, like me, some of you may be cynical and fed up with politics, and you have every right to be. But despite all of this, I ask of you what's 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. I've seen it over the last 21 months. 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 stretch around schools and churches and the young people who cast their ballot for the very first time. The young, the not so young, the young at heart who got involved again after a very long time.

I've seen it in the workers who would rather cut back their hours in the factory than see their friends lose their jobs; in the neighbors who take a stranger in when the floodwaters rise; in the soldiers who reenlist after losing a limb.

I've seen it in the faces of men and women in all the rallies and town halls across the country that we've had. Men and women who speak of their struggles but also their hopes and their dreams.

Now, I was in Ft. Lauderdale. We had a rally. And afterwards, a woman named Robin sent me an e-mail, because apparently after our event, her son nearly went into cardiac arrest, a young man, high school student. He was diagnosed with a heart condition that could only be treated with a procedure that cost tens of thousands of dollars. Her -- Robin's insurance company refused to pay. The family just didn't have that kind of money.

And in her e-mail Robin wrote to me, she said, "Senator, 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 hard."

Missouri, that's what hope is. That thing inside us that insists that, despite all evidence to the contrary, there are better days ahead, if we're willing to work for it, if we're willing to shed our fears, if we're willing to reach deep down inside ourselves when we're tired, when we're discouraged and come back fighting hard.

That's what kept some of our parents and grandparents going through tough times. That what led some of them to say, "Maybe I can't go to college, but if I save a little bit each week, each month, maybe my child can go to college. Maybe I can't have a business of my own, but if I save and work hard, maybe my child or grandchild can have a business of their own."

It's what led immigrants from distance lands to settle on these shores, what led those who couldn't vote to march and organize and stand for freedom, to let out a cry that says it may look dark tonight, but if I hold onto hope, tomorrow will be brighter. People who couldn't vote but imagined maybe their son or daughter might run for the presidency of the United States of America. That's what this election is about. That's the choice we face right now.

Don't believe for a second this election is over. Don't think for a minute power can seize anything. It's going to get nasty, I'm sure, in the next four days. They will throw everything at us, like they've been doing. And we are going to have to work like our future depends on it in this last week. You know what? Because it does.

And all those young people who are here tonight, I've got to have every single one of you voting, and you've got to grab five more. All of you have got to vote. All of you have to dig down deep. All of you have to help make history. I know this, Missouri. You know this: the time for change has come. And if, in this last week, you will knock on some doors for me and make some calls for me, go to and find out where to vote, if you'll stand with me and fight by my side and cast your ballot for me, I promise you this: we will not just win Missouri, we will win this general election and together, we will change this country and we will change the world.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

Barack Obama, Remarks in Columbia, Missouri Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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