Barack Obama photo

Remarks During a Conference Call With Democratic National Committee Stakeholders

November 14, 2016

Josh, thank you for the amazing introduction. And thanks, Donna, for your wonderful work. Thanks all of you for hopping on the phone.

Look, first of all, I just want to say thank you. The incredible support you've shown me over the years has allowed me to do the good that we have done. And it is indisputable that the country is better off today than it was 8 years ago. I ticked off some of the reasons for that during the press conference that I had right before I got on the line here. And it's pretty hard to argue with. And in fact, the American people—based on their assessments of our performance right now—tend to agree.

And I always tell my team that our job when we are entrusted with this amazing office at the pinnacle of our democracy is to make sure that the country is better off than it was when we started. And having done that, we have run our stage of the race. And it has been a singular honor. But more importantly, it's helped millions of people in this country and probably billions around the world—what we've done. And that was all based on the work that you guys do all across this country at the State and local and grassroots levels. Delegates, members, donors—I couldn't have done it without you. And for that I will always be grateful.

Now, I know that you put that same kind of effort into this cycle, and I want to publicly say how proud I am of Hillary Clinton on a history-making race. We did not get the results we wanted, but we took a step in shattering a barrier that's still there. And little girls and little boys are going to have a different sense of the possible thanks to her nomination and her candidacy.

That doesn't mean we don't hurt for what was an unexpected loss. And expected losses are hard enough; unexpected ones are just worse. And that's okay. I was telling my team, you're allowed to mope for a week and a half, maybe two if you really need it. But after that, we've got to brush ourselves off and get back to work. We've got to come together and focus on a way ahead.

And it's important that we do that in a way that's consistent with who we are as Democrats. It means that we're listening to each other. We're reflecting. We're asking tough questions. We're respectful of different points of view. We're basing our decisions on facts and careful analysis, and we're taking the long view. And we're strategizing.

And in the months ahead, my hope is, is that we're convening Democrats at every level from the DNC to local ward and town committees to assess where we've fallen short and how we can build for elections, not just in Presidential years, but every year. Because I've been on this for a while. And I said this in my press conference. We have better ideas, but they have to be heard for us to actually translate those ideas into votes and ultimately into action.

And the challenge we have is that partly because of geographic distribution, there are big chunks of the country that just aren't hearing us. And they won't hear us if we're not showing up and if we're not there fighting day in, day out for those ideas.

And that is not something that you can just do every 4 years. It's something that you've got to do over a lengthy period of time: building trust, building relationships, making sure that people understand what we're about, focusing on down ballot, recruiting, training candidates, reaching out to every community, whether they agree or disagree. Because even in communities that are rock-solid Republican, there's a difference between us losing 60-40 or losing 80-20. And that can swing an election.

We've got to train new voters. We've got to train volunteers. All that work has to be done. And look, one of the challenges that I've discovered being President is, I'd like to be organizer in chief, but it's hard. You've got Syria, and you've got NATO, and you have summit meetings and economic issues that you have to deal with on ongoing basis. You try to get legislation done. That's why the DNC is so important. That's why our local State parties are so important. And although we haven't been able to do as much as I would like in order to assure that we've got the results we did in this election, I'm absolutely confident that it can be done. We've just got to be a little more strategic, and we've got to work a little bit harder.

And for the next 2 months, my main job is to make sure we finish up strong so that when I turn over the keys, I can continue to say unequivocally and demonstrably that the country is better off than when I found it. Part of that is also facilitating a decent transition so that the American people are as well served as they can be with the incoming administration.

But then, I'm going to be a private citizen, and I'm not going to stop, as citizen, working on behalf of the things that I care about, and I'm hoping that I'm going to have the opportunity to work with a whole bunch of you in all kinds of different ways. And now is not the time for me to spell out how that might happen, but I'm sure that we are going to be working shoulder to shoulder for many, many years to come.

Just a couple of final thank-yous. Again, Hillary Clinton did unbelievable work. So did Bernie Sanders. My two partners here, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, I could not have better partners than them in everything that we've accomplished. I want you to know, because I've been reading a lot of these reports, this notion that somehow all the work we did suddenly gets stripped away—let me tell you something, we got more done than any administration in the last who-knows-how-many decades, and if they roll back 15 or 20 percent of that, we're still 80 percent ahead. And that's not going to be as easy as I think some people feel, particularly if we continue to make the case and mobilize.

I just did my press conference, talked about the fact that suddenly everybody is going realize that 20 million people with health insurance that didn't have it before and protection against the discrimination for preexisting conditions and discounts for seniors and all this stuff—when you poll these things individually, people like them, and they don't want them taken away. And we're going to be in a position to make the case that the work we've done is good and a lot of it needs to be preserved. And if it can be improved upon, then we should be open minded to improving it.

The bottom line is that the—and I don't know about you all, but I'm still fired up, and I'm still ready to go. Admittedly, I will take a vacation for a couple weeks after my Presidency is over, but then, we're going to get back to work.

And for any of you who doubt, by the way, how quickly things can change and how fast the clouds can part, you remember that speech I gave in Boston. It was a pretty good speech, and I ended up winning the U.S. Senate race, an unknown State senator up until that point. And when I arrived in Washington in 2005, I was sworn in and everybody was really happy, and I was really proud. That was also the same time where John Kerry had lost a really close election, Tom Daschle had lost his seat and was no longer a leader in the Senate. I think Ken Salazar and I were the only two Democrats across the country that had won. Republicans controlled the Senate and the House and the Presidency. Things were looking pretty bleak. Two years later, Democrats were taking over Congress, and 4 years later, I was President of the United States.

So I've seen it. And the reason that happens is because of all of you. And that's why I'm proud of you and that's why I'm proud to be a Democrat. Let's learn our lessons, lick our wounds, brush ourselves off, and then, we'll get back to work. All right?

Thank you, guys.

NOTE: The President spoke at 5:22 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Pennsylvania Attorney General-elect Josh Shapiro; Donna L. Brazile, interim chair, Democratic National Committee; Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton; Sen. Bernard Sanders, in his capacity as a 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate; Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid; House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi; Secretary of State John F. Kerry, in his capacity as the 2004 Democratic Presidential nominee; and former Sen. Kenneth L. Salazar. Audio was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

Barack Obama, Remarks During a Conference Call With Democratic National Committee Stakeholders Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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