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12 Barack Obama Quotes on Hope and Possibility

Former President Barack Obama first rose to political prominence as a senator in the mid-2000s with his rousing, motivational speeches, which often centered around possibility and enthusiasm for building a better future. In particular, Obama’s hopeful appeal resonated with the country’s younger generation, who found encouragement in the former community organizer’s uplifting messages and calls to action. As a result, Obama made history in 2008 when he was elected to become the first Black President in United States history, going on to serve two terms as the nation’s leader.

Obama has remained in the limelight as an activist, podcaster, and author. On top of having won two Grammy Awards for his audiobooks, Obama has also been honored with several awards for his peacemaking and inspirational work, including the Nobel Peace Prize (2009), TIME Magazine's "Person of the Year" (2008, 2012), as well as the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Award (2018). Here are some of the former President’s most thought-provoking quotes about hope and ambition throughout the years.

You might be locked in a world not of your own making, her eyes said, but you still have a claim on how it is shaped.
“Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance,” 1995

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Change is never easy, but always possible.
NAACP Fight for Freedom Fund dinner speech, 2005

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Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it.
Iowa caucus victory speech, 2008

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Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.
Iowa caucus victory speech, 2008

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The audacity of hope: In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us.
Democratic National Convention, 2004

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While we breathe, we will hope.
South Carolina primary victory speech, 2008 (January 26, 2008)

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What we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
Presidential election victory speech, 2008

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The absence of hope can rot a society from within.
Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, 2019

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Where you are right now doesn't have to determine where you'll end up.
Back-to-school speech at Wakefield High School, 2009

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You can't let your failures define you. You have to let your failures teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently the next time.
Back-to-school speech at Wakefield High School, 2009

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You can’t give up your passion if things don’t work right away. You can’t lose heart, or grow cynical if there are twists and turns on your journey. The cynics may be the loudest voices — but I promise you, they will accomplish the least.
Ohio State commencement speech, 2013

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We choose hope over fear. We see the future not as something out of our control, but as something we can shape for the better through concerted and collective effort. We reject fatalism or cynicism when it comes to human affairs; we choose to work for the world as it should be, as our children deserve it to be.
Address to the United Nations General Assembly, 2014

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Photo credit: IanDagnall Computing/ Alamy Stock Photo

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About the Author
Sean Neumann
Sean Neumann is a writer and reporter based in Chicago, Illinois.
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What playwright said, “Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand"?

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