Barack Obama Quotes

60+ Motivational Barack Obama Quotes

Barack Obama was the 44th President of the United States and the first African American president who served two terms in office. Obama made history, giving hope and faith to America, and paving the way for change as a feminist, civil rights, and climate change activist. Here are some Barack Obama Quotes to serve as motivation and inspiration for every human.

Barack Obama: Life and Career

Barack Obama–full name Barack Hussein Obama II–spent most of his life in politics. In 1983, Barack graduated from Columbia University with a political science degree, and then in 1991, he graduated Harvard magna cum laude. He worked with a constitutional law professor, worked on the impoverished South Side of Chicago as a community organizer for low-income residents, joined a Chicago law firm as a summer associate (where he met his now-wife Michelle), practiced as a civil rights lawyer, taught (part-time) as a constitutional law professor, and helped organize voter registration during Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign. 

Barack Obama had a seat on the Illinois State Senate as a Democrat. In this position, he drafted legislation on health care, childhood education programs for the poor, and a state earned-income tax credit for the working poor. After the 9/11 attacks, Obama was strongly against Republican President George W. Bush’s push to go to war. Despite his protested efforts, the United States-Iraqi War began in 2003. 

Barack Obama: The Presidency

In 2007, Obama announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, and in November 2008, he won the election. As the first African American president, he and his vice president Joe Biden made American history. Unfortunately, becoming president meant he took on what Bush left: a global economic recession and two foreign wars. In the first 100 days in office, Obama expanded health care insurance for children, provided legal protection for women seeking equal pay, and cut taxes for working families and small businesses. He reached out to China, Russia, and Europe to improve foreign relations. In 2013, Obama tried to thaw the relationship between the United States and Iran and the nuclear deal. Unfortunately, Donald Trump withdrew from the deal when he (Trump) was in office. 

Throughout his time in office, President Obama called to take action on climate change, health care, and marriage equality. He did a lot for the nation: ordering airstrikes against ISIS; re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba; reached an understanding with India and nuclear power efforts; discussed trade, terrorism, border security, and climate change with the Canadian Prime Minister; developed the Affordable Care Act; spoke about gun violence and gun control after the murder of Trayvon Martin and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting; legalized same-sex marriage; developed a Clean Power Plan, and so much more. Obama’s speech–his first State of the Union speech–addressed economic challenges and proposals. 

In 2017, President Obama gave his farewell address in Chicago, putting his faith in the American people and democracy. After he left, Obama continued to address and participate in politics, like commenting on Trump’s excessive use of social media and delivering a speech in South Africa to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. President Barack Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and what he stood for and fought for will be forever remembered and praised. With every speech, he served poise and empathy.

With that being said, here are some quotes by Barack Obama on politics, freedom, life, and racism. Let Obama’s words serve for every man, woman, and young person, as a reminder and a source of motivation for a more inclusive, empathetic, safer, and better nation

Barack Obama Quotes
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Barack Obama Quotes on Politics, War, and Gun Control

“Today, I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious, and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.” -Barack Obama

“I guarantee you; we will move this country forward. We will finish what we started. And we’ll remind the world just why it is that the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth.” -Barack Obama

“A good compromise, a good piece of legislation, is like a good sentence or a good piece of music. Everybody can recognize it. They say, ‘Huh. It works. It makes sense.” -Barack Obama

“The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.” -Barack Obama

“The way business is done in Washington has to change. Now that these clouds of crisis and uncertainty have lifted, we need to focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do—grow the economy, create good jobs, strengthen the middle class, lay the foundation for broad-based prosperity, and get our fiscal house in order for the long haul.” -Barack Obama

“Weapons of war have no place on our streets.” -Barack Obama

“Peace is not just the absence of war. True peace depends upon creating the opportunity that makes life worth living. And to do that, we must confront the common enemies of human beings: nuclear weapons and poverty; ignorance and disease.” -Barack Obama

“The United States of America is not the only country on Earth with violent or dangerous people. We are not inherently more prone to violence. But we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency. It doesn’t happen in other advanced countries. It’s not even close. And as I’ve said before, somehow we’ve become numb to it, and we start thinking that this is normal.” -Barack Obama

“Even if it all seems broken, have faith in our democracy. Participate — and vote. Don’t fall for the easy cynicism that says nothing can change — or that there’s only one way to bring about change.” -Barack Obama

“You don’t have to accept what was considered normal before. You don’t have to accept the world as it is. You can make it into the world as it should be and could be. You can create a new normal, one that is fairer, and gives everyone opportunity, and treats everyone equally, and builds bridges between people instead of dividing them. Just as America overcame slavery and civil war, recessions and depression, Pearl Harbor and 9/11 and all kinds of social upheaval, we can emerge from our current circumstances stronger than before. Better than before.”-Barack Obama

Barack Obama Quotes on Leadership

“I always believe that ultimately, if people are paying attention, then we get good government and good leadership. And when we get lazy, as a democracy and civically start taking shortcuts, then it results in bad government and politics.” -Barack Obama

“At my core, I think we’re going to be okay. We just have to fight for it, we have to work for it and not take it for granted, and I know that you will help us do that.” -Barack Obama

“In the face of impossible odds, people who love this country can change it.” -Barack Obama

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” -Barack Obama

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope; you will fill yourself with hope.” -Barack Obama

“One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it changes a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world.” -Barack Obama

“We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, freedom without a commitment to others, freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.” -Barack Obama

Inspirational Barack Obama Quotes on His Values

“My Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation.” -Barack Obama

“When our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act.” -Barack Obama

“As we look forward to the New Year, let’s resolve to recommit ourselves to the values we share.” -Barack Obama

“I’ve got two daughters. 9 years old and 6 years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby.” -Barack Obama

man in gray t-shirt holding black and white welcome to the beach signage

Barack Obama Quotes About Racism and Inequality

“If we decline to invest in the children of immigrants, just because they don’t look like us, we diminish the prospects of our own children – because those brown kids will represent a larger share of America’s workforce. Going forward, we must uphold laws against discrimination… But laws alone won’t be enough. Hearts must change.” -Barack Obama

“No, you can’t deny women their basic rights and pretend it’s about your ‘religious freedom.’ If you don’t like birth control, don’t use it. Religious freedom doesn’t mean you can force others to live by your own beliefs.” -Barack Obama

“The government has to treat all citizens equally.” -Barack Obama

“To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sew conflict or blame their society’s ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” -Barack Obama

“There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is the United States of America. There is not a black America, a white America, a Latino America, an Asian America. There’s the United States of America.” -Barack Obama

“I noticed that there was nobody like me in the Sears, Roebuck Christmas catalog. . .and that Santa was a white man. I went into the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror with all my senses and limbs seemingly intact, looking as I had always looked, and wondered if something was wrong with me.” -Barack Obama

“The challenges we face go well beyond a virus, and that the old normal wasn’t good enough — it wasn’t working. In a lot of ways, the pandemic just brought into focus problems that have been growing for a very long time, whether it’s widening economic inequality, the lack of basic health care for millions of people, the continuing scourge of bigotry and sexism, or the divisions and dysfunction that plague our political system. Similarly, the protests in response to the killing of George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and Nina Pop aren’t simply a reaction to those particular tragedies, as heartbreaking as they are. They speak to decades worth of anguish and frustration over unequal treatment and a failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system.” -Barack Obama

“To see so many of you participating in peaceful protests, to see so many of you of every race and background raise up your voices on behalf of justice for all — well, it’s been unbelievably inspiring. You make me optimistic about our future.” -Barack Obama

person holding white and black welcome to the beach signage

Barack Obama Quotes on LGBTQ+ Rights and Female Equality

“All Americans are entitled to the equal protection of the law. That all people should be treated equally, regardless of who they are or who they love.” -Barack Obama

“We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs.” -Barack Obama

“It is absolutely men’s responsibility to fight sexism too. And as spouses and partners and boyfriends, we need to work hard and be deliberate about creating truly equal relationships.” -Barack Obama

“We need to keep changing the attitude that teaches men to feel threatened by the presence and success of women.” -Barack Obama

“Every single American — gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender — every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of our society. It’s a pretty simple proposition.” -Barack Obama

“We need to keep changing a culture that shines a particularly unforgiving light on women and girls of color.” -Barack Obama

“We must carry forward the work of the women who came before us and ensure our daughters have no limits on their dreams, no obstacle to their achievements, and no remaining ceilings to shatter.” -Barack Obama

“The most important people in my life have always been women. I was raised by a single mom, who spent much of her career working to empower women in developing countries. I watched as my grandmother, who helped raise me, worked her way up at a bank only to hit a glass ceiling. I’ve seen how Michelle has balanced the demands of a busy career and raising a family.” -Barack Obama

boy in red crew neck t-shirt sitting beside boy in blue crew neck t-shirt

Barack Obama Quotes About Education

“When we study together, we learn together, we work together, and we prosper together.” -Barack Obama

“In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education.” -Barack Obama

“If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs.” -Barack Obama

“The future must not belong to those who bully women. It must be shaped by girls who go to school and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like their sons.” -Barack Obama

“We have an obligation and a responsibility to be investing in our students and our schools. We must make sure that people who have the grads, the desire and the will, but not the money, can still get the best education possible.” -Barack Obama

“The future belongs to young people with an education and the imagination to create.” -Barack Obama

Inspirational Quotes by Barack Obama on Climate Change

“One of the reasons I ran for this office was to make America the leader in this mission. This gives us the best possible shot to save the one planet we’ve got.” -Barack Obama

“We’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.” -Barack Obama

“When Americans are called on to innovate, that’s what we do — whether it’s making more fuel-efficient cars or more fuel-efficient appliances, or making sure that we are putting in place the kinds of equipment that prevents harm to the ozone layer and eliminates acid rain.” -Barack Obama

“Part of what’s unique about climate change, though, is the nature of some opposition to action. It’s pretty rare that you’ll encounter somebody who says the problem you’re trying to solve simply doesn’t exist. When President Kennedy set us on a course for the moon, there were a number of people who made a serious case that it wouldn’t be worth it; it was going to be too expensive, it was going to be too hard, it would take too long. But nobody ignored the science. I don’t remember anybody saying that the moon wasn’t there or that it was made of cheese.” -Barack Obama

“The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way.” -Barack Obama

“Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say ‘yes, we did.’” -Barack Obama

“This is not some distant problem of the future. This is a problem that is affecting Americans right now. Whether it means increased flooding, greater vulnerability to drought, more severe wildfires — all these things are having an impact on Americans as we speak.” -Barack Obama

“We need scientists to design new fuels. We need farmers to help grow them. We need engineers to invent new technologies. We need entrepreneurs to sell those technologies. We need workers to operate assembly lines that hum with high-tech, zero-carbon components. We need builders to hammer into place the foundations for a clean energy age. We need diplomats and businessmen and women, and Peace Corps volunteers to help developing nations skip past the dirty phase of development and transition to sustainable sources of energy. In other words, we need you.” -Barack Obama

“Yes, this is hard. But there should be no question that the United States of America is stepping up to the plate. We recognize our role in creating this problem; we embrace our responsibility to combat it. We will do our part, and we will help developing nations do theirs. But we can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every nation –- developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass.” -Barack Obama

One World signage

Inspirational Barack Obama Quotes on Change

“Now, this is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, and they get engaged, and they come together to demand it.” -Barack Obama

“You were the change. The answer to people’s hopes and, because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started.” -Barack Obama

“I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my remaining days. But for now, whether you are young or whether you’re young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your president — the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago. I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change — but in yours.” -Barack Obama

“I believe that people are more good than bad. I believe tragic things happen. I think there’s evil in the world, but I think at the end of the day, if we work hard and if we’re true to those things in us that feel true and feel right, that the world gets a little better each time.” -Barack Obama

“I believe in evolution, scientific inquiry, and global warming; I believe in free speech, whether politically correct or politically incorrect, and I am suspicious of using government to impose anybody’s religious beliefs -including my own- on nonbelievers.” -Barack Obama

“Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. And it will leave you unfulfilled.” -Barack Obama

“And where we are met with cynicism and doubt and fear and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of the American people in three simple words — yes, we can.” -Barack Obama

“It’s important to make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.” -Barack Obama

“Nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.” -Barack Obama

“Hope is not blind optimism. It’s not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It’s not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all 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. 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.” -Barack Obama

“Our stories may be singular, but our destination is shared.” -Barack Obama

“Don’t let your failures define you – let them teach you.” -Barack Obama

“We did not come to fear the future. We can here to shape it.” -Barack Obama

“That’s what hope is. It’s not blind faith that things will get better. It’s the conviction that with effort, and perseverance, and courage, and a concern for others — things can get better.” -Barack Obama

“The American story has never been about things coming easy. It has been about rising to the moment when the moment is hard. About rejecting panicked division for purposeful unity. About seeing a mountaintop from the deepest valley. That is why we remember that some of the most famous words ever spoken by an American came from a president who took office in a time of turmoil: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

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January Nelson is a writer, editor, and dreamer. She writes about astrology, games, love, relationships, and entertainment. January graduated with an English and Literature degree from Columbia University.