Springfield, Illinois - In this week’s address, the President spoke from the place where his political career first began in the Illinois State Senate. Building on his State of the Union, the President discussed his time in the State Senate working in good faith across party lines with Democrats, Republicans and Independents to effectively govern as an example of proof that a better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything.
The President also built on his call to make it easier to vote, as well as the need to address the way we draw our congressional districts. Nine years after Barack Obama chose the steps of the Old State Capitol – where Abraham Lincoln once called on a divided house to stand together – he returned to ask Americans to join him in the unfinished business of perfecting our union. Because in the final year of his Presidency, it’s clear that he’s followed through and that, together, we’ve made real progress building a better future for the next generation.
Remarks of President Barack Obama as Delivered
The Illinois State Senate
February 13, 2016
Hi, everybody. I’m speaking to you today from Springfield, Illinois.
I spent eight years in the state senate here. It was a place where, for all our surface differences in a state as diverse as Illinois, my colleagues and I actually shared a lot in common. We fought for our principles, and voted against each other, but because we assumed the best in one another, not the worst, we found room for progress. We bridged differences to get things done.
In my travels through this state, I saw most Americans do the same. Folks know that issues are complicated, and that people with different ideas might have a point. It convinced me that if we just approached our politics the same way we approach our daily lives, with common sense, a commitment to fairness, and the belief that we’re all in this together, there’s nothing we can’t do.
That’s why I announced, right here, in Springfield that I was running for President. And my faith in the generosity and fundamental goodness of the American people is rewarded every day.
But I’ll be the first to admit that the tone of our politics hasn’t gotten better, but worse. Too many people feel like the system is rigged, and their voices don’t matter. And when good people are pushed away from participating in our public life, more powerful and extreme voices will fill the void. They’ll be the ones who gain control over decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic crisis, or roll back the rights that generations of Americans have fought to secure.
The good news is there’s also a lot we can do about this, from reducing the influence of money in our politics, to changing the way we draw congressional districts, to simply changing the way we treat each other. That’s what I came back here to talk about this week. And I hope you check out my full speech at WhiteHouse.gov.
One thing I focused on, for example, was how we can make voting easier, not harder, and modernize it for the way we live now. Here in Illinois, a new law allows citizens to register and vote at the polls on Election Day. It also expands early voting, which makes it much easier for working folks and busy parents. We’re also considering automatic voter registration for every citizen when they apply for a driver’s license. And I’m calling on more states to adopt steps like these. Because when more of us vote, the less captive our politics will be to narrow interests – and the better our democracy will be for our children.
Nine years after I first announced for this office, I still believe in a politics of hope. And for all the challenges of a changing world; for all the imperfections of our democracy; choosing a politics of hope is something that’s entirely up to each of us.