Obama Explains Why A Changing America Terrifies Donald Trump (Full DNC Speech)


President Barack Obama closed out Wednesday night of the Democratic National Convention with a rousing speech that hearkened back to his breakout moment at the 2004 convention. Obama detailed a very different vision of a changing America than the xenophobia that characterizes Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign.

Obama noted that Trump and other Republicans have argued the U.S. has lost a vital quality, which they suggest has been stolen by Mexican “criminal” immigrants, liberal elitists, and Muslim terrorists.

“They tell voters there’s a real America out there that must be restored,” he said. “This isn’t an idea that started with Donald Trump. It’s been peddled by politicians for a long time – probably from the start of our Republic.”

The first black president rejected that idea, instead painting a picture of a tolerant nation that recognizes it’s richer for its growing diversity. He illustrated this with his now familiar “origin story,” debuted in his 2004 speech, about being raised by his white grandparents from the heartland.

“I don’t know if they had their birth certificates,” Obama joked, a dig at Trump’s dogged promotion of a conspiracy theory that the president was born in Kenya.

“My grandparents explained that they didn’t like show-offs. They didn’t admire braggarts or bullies. They didn’t respect mean-spiritedness, or folks who were always looking for shortcuts in life. Instead, they valued traits like honesty and hard work,” he said. “Kindness and courtesy. Humility; responsibility; helping each other out.”

“And what my grandparents understood was that these values weren’t limited to Kansas. They weren’t limited to small towns,” he continued. “They knew these values weren’t reserved for one race; they could be passed down to a half-Kenyan grandson, or a half-Asian granddaughter.

“In fact, they were the same values Michelle’s parents, the descendants of slaves, taught their own kids living in a bungalow on the South Side of Chicago. They knew these values were exactly what drew immigrants here, and they believed that the children of those immigrants were just as American as their own, whether they wore a cowboy hat or a yarmulke; a baseball cap or a hijab.

“America has changed over the years. But these values my grandparents taught me – they haven’t gone anywhere. They’re as strong as ever; still cherished by people of every party, every race, and every faith. They live on in each of us. What makes us American, what makes us patriots, is what’s in here. That’s what matters.”

This lofty depiction of a changing U.S. isn’t just meant to give Americans a feel-good antidote to the racism and fear mongering spread by the Trump campaign. It’s also smart politics.

The face of America has changed dramatically, even over the eight years of Obama’s tenure. This year’s election is on track to be the most diverse in U.S. history. Since 2012, more than two-thirds of the new eligible voters in the U.S. identify as racial and ethnic minorities. At the same time, the white share of the electorate is dropping.

Trump’s rhetoric may be accelerating the rate of demographic change. His racist comments about Latinos and immigrants are reportedly spurring naturalization drives for Americans who are more determined than ever to gain their citizenship in order to vote against Trump.

If the current rate of citizenship applications is sustained, nearly a million new voters could hit the polls for the first time in November.

Obama’s candidacy turned out record numbers of African-Americans in 2008, an election whereone in four voters was non-white. Many wondered if Democrats could sustain that political energy from voters of color, or if they were simply buoyed by enthusiasm for the first black president.

Black voters backed Hillary Clinton in this year’s primary in even wider margins than they supported Obama against Clinton in 2008. But it remains to be seen if minority turnout will rise to the same levels Obama enjoyed in his last two elections.

Obama knows this turnout will be crucial in a tightening contest. On Wednesday night, Obama exhorted listeners, again, “don’t boo, vote!”


Reprinted with permission from Think Progress, a branch of The Center for American Progress