1. A good compromise, a good piece of legislation, is like a good sentence; or a good piece of music. Everybody can recognize it. They say, “Huh. It works. It makes sense.”
2. That’s silly talk… Talk to my wife. She’ll tell me I need to learn to just put my socks on the hamper.
3. In a generous America you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential.
4. There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.
5. Our economic dependence depended on individual initiative. It depended on a belief in the free market; but it has also depended on our sense of mutual regard for each other, the idea that everybody has a stake in the country, that we’re all in it together and everybody’s got a shot at opportunity. That’s what’s produced our unrivaled political stability.
6. Michelle will tell you that when we get together for Christmas or Thanksgiving, it’s like a little mini-United Nations… I’ve got relatives who look like Bernie Mac, and I’ve got relatives who look like Margaret Thatcher… We’ve got it all.
7. For all the progress we have made, there are times when the land of our dreams recedes from us — when we are lost, wandering spirits, content with our suspicions and our angers, our long-held grudges and petty disputes, our frantic diversions and tribal allegiances. And yet, by erecting this (Martin Luther King, Jr.) monument, we are reminded that this different, better place beckons us, and that we will find it not across distant hills or within some hidden valley, but rather we will find it somewhere in our hearts.
8. We cannot afford to be a country of isolationists right now.
9. I am a prisoner of my own biography: I can’t help but view the American experience through the lens of a black man of mixed heritage, forever mindful of how generations of people who looked like me were subjugated and stigmatized, and the subtle and not so subtle ways that race and class continue to shape our lives.
10. Values are faithfully applied to the facts before us, while ideology overrides whatever facts call theory into question.
11. All the money in the world won’t boost student achievement if parents make no effort to instill in their children the values of hard work and delayed gratification.
12. For in the end laws are just words on a page- words that are sometimes malleable, opaque, as dependent on context and trust as they are in a story or poem or promise to someone, words whose meanings are subject to erosion, sometimes collapsing in the blink of an eye.
13. We are on our own, and have only our own reason and our judgment to rely on.
14. Nowhere is it ordained that history moves in a straight line.
15. The very interconnectivity that increasingly binds the world together has empowered those who would tear that world down.
16. We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics who will only grow louder and more dissonant in the weeks to come. We’ve been asked to pause for a reality check. We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we’ve been told that we’re not ready, or that we shouldn’t try, or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes we can.
17. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected.
18. We’ve got a tragic history when it comes to race in this country. We’ve got a lot of pent-up anger and bitterness and misunderstanding. … This country wants to move beyond these kinds of things.
19. Our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. Thinking only about yourself, fulfilling your immediate wants and needs, betrays a poverty of ambition.
20. I am reminded every day of my life, if not by events, then by my wife, that I am not a perfect man.
21. You have shown what history teaches us — that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington.
22. My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody … I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.
23. If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer. … It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and always will be, the United States of America.
24. This is our moment. This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.
25. The question we ask today is not how big or small our government is, but whether it works.