The Slatest

“Time and Again You’ve Picked Me Up”: President Obama’s Powerful Valedictory to the Nation

President Barack Obama offered a stirring endorsement of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, seeking at the same time to burnish his legacy and offer a stark contrast between the party’s message of optimism and the fearmongering and demagoguery of Donald Trump’s Republican Party.

Although he will campaign with and for Clinton in the lead-up to November’s election, the speech also seemed to serve as a valedictory address to the nation, summing up his accomplishments and handing over the leadership of the Democratic Party to the woman he hopes to be his successor.

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“I’m ready to pass the baton and do my part as a private citizen, so this year in this election, I’m asking you to join me to reject cynicism and reject fear and to summon what is best in us to elect Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States and show the world we still believe in the promise of this great nation,” Obama offered at the end of the speech.

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Speaking 12 years to the day from the 2004 DNC speech that made his fame as a politician, Obama offered a similar vision of hope, unity, and American patriotism as he did during that convention in Boston. He also offered his gratitude to his supporters.

“You are the best organizers on the planet and I am so proud of all the change that you made possible. Time and again you’ve picked me up and I hope sometimes I picked you up, too,” Obama said. “And tonight I ask you to do for Hillary Clinton what you did for me. I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me because you’re who I was talking about 12 years ago when I talked about hope.”

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Even some of his strongest conservative critics were impressed by the speech.

In a critical passage, Obama also used the speech to compare Clinton’s opponent, Donald Trump, to some of America’s worst enemies (italics mine).

What makes us American, what makes us patriots is what’s in here. That’s what matters. And that’s why we can take the food and music and holidays and styles of other countries and blend it into something uniquely our own. That’s why we can attract strivers and entrepreneurs from around the globe to build new factories and create new industries here. That’s why our military can look the way it does, every shade of humanity forged into common service. That’s why anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists, or communists, or jihadists, or home-grown demagogues will always fail in the end.

After the speech ended, Clinton joined Obama on stage and the two former rivals and colleagues hugged. Whether Obama’s political and governing legacy is held up or is dismantled in the years to come will depend entirely on what Clinton is able to accomplish in November, and whether Clinton is elected could greatly depend on Obama’s support. The pair seemed to take a big step toward accomplishing both of those goals in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Read more of Slate’s 2016 election coverage.

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