The Speech That Made Obama President

Back in 2004, the EMS team happened to be in Des Moines, working with a client, during the Iowa caucuses. In fact, we stayed in the same hotel that served as campaign HQ for John Kerry’s campaign, and we used our Speaker’s Digest credentials to see his victory speech in person. That same year, another politician gave a speech that, although he wasn’t yet a candidate, practically made him into a household name. Since we’ve already provided some input about the current crop of candidates, let’s take a look back at what it took for a then-unknown Barack Obama to successfully introduced himself.

Vice President Joe Biden is currently leading in the polls for the 2020 Democratic nomination, having vaulted ahead of the other 22 candidates currently running. The question is, what will it take for one of them to break through?

For a bit of insight, let’s look back about 15 years to see the exact moment when a young, relatively unknown senatorial candidate from Illinois first made a national impression. Up until that point, he was just “a skinny kid with a funny name,” to use his own words.

Many experts believe that the “Audacity of Hope” speech delivered by Illinois State Senator Barack Obama at the 2004 DNC Convention elevated him in the eyes of many. It was that moment when many of his colleagues and constituents first thought of him as presidential timber. And it was all because he gave a great 16-minute speech, one with a visionary, unifying, and energizing message that his audience adored.

Never underestimate the power of giving the right speech to the right audience at the right time. Robert Lehrman, who was formerly Al Gore’s speech writer, said of that moment: “(His speech) was electrifying, and without it he wouldn’t have become president.”

What did Obama do well that night? He told his story, he used concrete details to make his points, and he demonstrated his mastery of the use of repetition to gain the support of a crowd, using now famous phrases such as “There is not a liberal America or a conservative America—there is the United States of America!”

Obama became an expert at working with his audience to get his message across. Watch the speech by clicking here to see how he uses his own energy to build up the energy in the room: he gets louder, he speaks more quickly, and the audience gets more and more excited.The video not only includes multiple clips from that speech, but also cut-ins from experts such as Lehrman, Mario Cuomo and others who talk about the night he introduced himself to the United States.

We have some great speakers in this new field of candidates. We look forward to seeing which of them will be able to elevate their game to help people see them as a potential future leader of our country.

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