Obama Democracy Forum marks 15th anniversary of Grant Park election night speech

Saturday, November 4, 2023
Obama, supporters celebrate 15th anniversary of Grant Park speech
Fifteen years ago, Barack Obama, freshly elected as the first Black president of the United States, stepped onto the stage in Grant Park to address his supporters.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Hundreds in Chicago for the Obama Foundation Democracy Forum and to celebrate the 15th anniversary of an historic acceptance speech in Grant Park in 2008 when Americans elected the nation's first African American president.

Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama addressed the crowd at McCormick Place in the city that launched his political career Friday afternoon, at a conference for the people he and the former first lady said collectively created a movement.

"Tonight is about so much more than what happened one night 15 years ago," Michelle Obama said. "It's about all the work that led up to it, and all the work that's happened since."

Illinois Congresswoman Lauren Underwood served as an intern for then-Senator Obama in 2006. Ten years later she was elected to the House to represent the western suburbs. In that time, politicians and voters have become more bitterly divided.

"We have a great opportunity to make a tremendous difference, we don't have a lot of time," she said.

"While the world has improved in many ways it's also gotten complicated," said Michelle Obama.

President Obama's comments were also tempered by recent world news.

"I look at this and I think back 'what could I have done during my presidency to move this forward,'" he said. "There's a part of me that's still saying 'well, was there something else I could have done?'"

But he added, "As heartbreaking as the news is, as daunting as the news is, I stand convinced in your power to make this world better."

Obama emphasized the second Democracy Forum is needed as, he argued, democracy is key to help solving local and global problems.

"We are here to bridge our differences, see each other, listen to each other," Obama said.

Attendees were welcomed by the CEO of the Foundation and Chicagoan Valerie Jarrett As well as Mayor Brandon Johnson who encouraged attendees to explore the city.