Barack Obama is back. We’ve missed you, Mr. President.
In a speech at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Obama officially returned to politics in a pointed talk about why people need to vote in this year’s midterm elections.
You can watch the full speech here.
It was the first time Obama has mentioned President Trump by name since leaving office. And he made it count.
And it’s just the beginning. On Saturday, Obama will rally for candidates in California before hitting the road to Ohio. And if this first speech is any indicator, his return to the political arena could have a real impact.
In the meantime, here are the 7 most important lines from his speech:
He said democracy itself is at stake.
“I’m here today because this is one of those pivotal moments when every one of us as citizens of the United States need to determine just who we are, what it is that we stand for. As a fellow citizen, not as an ex-president, I’m here to deliver a simple message, which is that you need to vote, because our democracy depends on it.”
He pointed out that Trump literally doesn’t have the backbone to criticize Nazis.
“We are Americans. We’re supposed to stand up to bullies, not follow them. We’re supposed to stand up to discrimination and we’re sure as heck supposed to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers. How hard can that be? Saying that Nazis are bad.
He made it clear that it didn’t start with Trump but it can end with him.
Inspiring words from @BarackObama today. A powerful reminder that it’s on all of us to vote this fall if we want leaders who reflect the civility, character, dignity, and goodness of the American people. The stakes couldn’t be higher, but Americans always rise to the occasion.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 7, 2018
“It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause,” Obama said to applause. “He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years.”
He’s campaigning for Democrats but he also called for a return to more traditional, partisan debate.
“None of this is conservative. I don’t mean to pretend I’m channelling Lincoln now, but that’s not what he had in mind, I don’t think when he formed the Republican Party. It sure isn’t normal. It’s radical. It’s a vision that says our protection of our power is all that matters.
This speech by Barack Obama is one of the greatest, most timely, and most important, in the history of this country. It’s a reminder what a real president sounds like. Someone who can unite the country, not divide. Thank you President Obama for speaking out. You’re a patriot.🇺🇸
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) September 7, 2018
He poured cold water on the anonymous New York Times op-ed about a “resistance” from within the White House.
“That is not a check. That’s not how our democracy’s supposed to work. These people aren’t elected. They’re not doing us a service by actively promoting 90 percent of the crazy stuff that’s coming out of this White House, and saying, ‘Don’t worry, we’re preventing the other 10 percent.’”
He said we must restore normalcy and our institutions if we we’re to return to an honest debate about moving our country forward.
“I’m here to tell you that you should still be concerned and should still want to see a restoration of honesty and decency and lawfulness in our government. It should not be Democratic or Republican. It should not be partisan to say that we do not pressure the attorney general or the FBI to use the justice system as as a cudgel to punish our political opponents.”
Despite throwing some heavy punches, Obama once again reminded us about the power and importance of hope and change.
Great reminder from a great man: “It shouldn’t be Democratic or Republican to say we don’t target certain groups of people based on what they look like or how they pray. We are Americans.” @barackobama
PS … we all need to get out and vote like our lives depend on it come Nov
— Andrew Zimmern (@andrewzimmern) September 7, 2018
“In two months, we have the chance, not the certainty, but the chance, to restore some semblance of sanity to our politics. You cannot sit back and wait for a savior. You can’t opt out because you don’t feel sufficiently inspired by this or that particular candidate.”