November 2nd, 2007
09:16 PM ET
7 years ago

Obama: 'I'm not interested in second place'

Watch a clip of Sen. Obama's speech in South Carolina Friday.

(CNN) – At the end of a week where Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, made her most direct references yet to the historic nature of her presidential campaign, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, spoke Friday about being black and mounting a serious campaign for the White House.

Speaking from the steps of a historic courthouse in Clarendon County, South Carolina where one of the lawsuits which ultimately led to the desegregation of America’s schools was filed more than 50 years ago, Obama tied his presidential run to the black community’s fight for civil rights.

Obama told the crowd he’d heard people say, “’Ya know, we’re just not sure that America’s ready for an African-American president.’”  “You’ve heard that before. You’ve heard the same voices you heard fifty years ago,” Obama said.

“So, I just want ya’ll to be clear. I would not be running if I weren’t confident I was going to win,” he said. “I’m not interested in second place,” he added.

“We are tied up in Iowa right now. And, let me tell you there aren’t a lot of folks in Iowa that look like me,” said Obama. “And, we’re doing just fine.”

Obama also took a shot at President Bush.  Talking about the importance of education in his own life, Obama said, “I wasn’t like the President George Bush – born with a silver spoon in my mouth. My daddy wasn’t President of the United States,” the Illinois Senator told the crowd.  “I had to work and get an education and get scholarships to get ahead.”

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soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    Don't worry about second place, because you are a distant third in electability in the general. And please lose the phony black accent when addressing Southern blacks, which makes you sound as inauthentic as What's-Her-Name in a Baptist church.

    November 3, 2007 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  2. John,boston,ma

    Cnn you really like picking on those headlines that you think you will you will use in the future......I just think Obama is running for the president of united states and not junior senator of illinois like you used to call him. Quit this game and bring outlines that he has given voters electable candidate!

    November 3, 2007 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  3. simon,nashua,nh

    I am an African American and I am voting for Obama. Not because he is my colour but he has given me a clear view on how he can handle tough situations from being called names to what he gonna do as a president. He is the most authentic person so far for me. Hillary is still playing I am not gonna aswer that game for a long time. I think every question no matter how stupid it is should be answered if we are really serious to change the direction of this country. I want a serious person.

    November 3, 2007 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  4. Bernie Moore-Knowles, Papa'aloa, Hawai'i


    I am a mixed race, middle aged woman that grew up poor in the former Indian Territories; present day Oklahoma. I am at this point in my life, I suppose – considered a wealthy individual. However, I have never forgotten the work ethic of my illiterate parents and the avenue that they guided me down and the provisions and sacrifices they made so as to provide me with an "easier" life than they had picking cotton for the "Man." Barack Obama? I look forward to integrity being restored to the White House and the place of Americans in the scope of the world. I look forward to celebrating your Presidency. Never forget your Kenyan father and your mother from Kansas. Do not forget that there are still many folks in this day – like those that were your parents and those that were like mine. Your background has earned you my vote. Mahalo.

    November 3, 2007 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  5. George Chicago IL

    That is a good thing, because Hillary won't offer you the VP position.

    November 3, 2007 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  6. SWING VOTER alan St Louis MO


    the only two democrats i will vote for president.

    If clinton on the ticket i will vote republican

    November 3, 2007 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  7. A. Thomas, New York, NY

    Mister, the 2nd place is the best you can hope for now, considering you being young and inexperienced. As it appears, Hillary may not even pick you as her VP.

    What do you mean you are tied up in Iowa? The latest poll of ARG shows that you are actually 10 points behind Hillary in Iowa, and more points behind in other state primaries.

    As your wife says, without winning Iowa, your whole presidential campaign is just a dream. It looks like a nightmare now as your polls go sideway while Hillary surges.

    November 3, 2007 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  8. Karen,ny

    I am very diappointed in all of these candidates and that is why I personally listen to a certain person on CNN because he is alot smarter then I am and he can see right through all of these politicians and he helps me decide on issues. If other people think that is dumb, then so be it.

    November 3, 2007 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  9. JB Boston MA

    This was one hell of a speech. The guy speaks well : )

    And before any of you Hill lovers question him discussing race (and Hill discussing gender), it was appropriate and needed. It was an anniversary for civil rights and the speech took place where intrinsic lawsuits were filed.

    One concern I do have, the accent he picked up during the speech. However this is not new for candidates. Listen to Hill when she is in the South. She picks up a drawl as well!

    November 3, 2007 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  10. Roy M Frisco, Tx

    You won't accept second best, well guess what, thats exactly what you will get at best.

    November 3, 2007 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  11. Kyu Reisch, Radcliff, Kentucky

    Family education is important, you didn't have experience of silver spoon in your mouth plus no well educated family background either, we don't want that you practice Presidential manner at White House after elected, you would better grow up in good family, you must have a plenty of experiences in all kinds of political manner and events before running Presidentcy, that's why we think you are naive and inexperienced candidate. I am afraid of Obama, new born puppy doesn't fear tiger. Obama makes me laugh often, his confidence is teenager's dream, he doesn't have second place qualification either. Obama needs to calm himself down, don't hurt himself before too late.

    November 3, 2007 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  12. Paul - Columbus Ohio

    Oh please. We all know your background and it's far from "struggling and needing scholarships".

    You came from a well to do family, and instead of criticising others dishonestly, you should just stick to the facts.

    I don't know which is more hypocritical, John Edwards, or Obama....

    If you want to see what making something of yourself despite difficult circumstances REALLY IS, then read Justice Clarance Thomas's book. Agree with his politics or not, THAT is a man who made it despite not being born with "a silver spoon in his mouth."

    November 3, 2007 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  13. jw, canadian,ok

    I, for one, would like to see you run to the Senate chamber and vote, Bushs' bootlickers are running roughshod over our rights.

    November 3, 2007 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  14. Jim Bremer

    QUOTE: ’Ya know, we’re just not sure that America’s ready for an African-American president.



    Dude, you're not exactly African. I'm not sure you're American either, with all that Muslim upbringing and madrassa education.

    And you sure ain't gonna be no President 🙂

    PS: That's called Ebonix. Don't worry, I didn't expect you to know. 🙂

    November 3, 2007 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  15. roger, conway sc

    Obama has not had to struggle in life, I find it strange that when a mixed black male senator from IL comes south to campaign he suddenly comes from a poor family & has had to struggle in life to get where he is is like we southerns can be taken for grant....

    November 3, 2007 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  16. James, Charlotte NC

    What are you talking about phony black accent, HE IS BLACK. Even though this wont make a dent in any repub or hill lovers mind, im gonna say it anyway. Im from the north and we AA's say words like yall all the time. You dont have to be from the south to talk like that. Now if he was saying words like yall WITH a southern accent only in the south like the chameleon Hillary, then yea, you would have a case for him pandering. He's not fake, you'll just say anything to try and take him down.

    November 3, 2007 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  17. Bee

    This speech will put an end to the Clinton's camapaign tactics. The black folks are going to vote for Obama all the way. The biggest suprise will come as aschoker to the Clinton's campaign come Jannuary.

    Obama all the way

    November 3, 2007 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  18. Anson Ang Williamsburg KY 40769

    Mr Obama

    If you want to be nominated and win all the way, here are some advise;

    Rule #1 Dont try to win sympathy votes
    from Blacks, Latinos, Asians
    and other minorities. Take my
    word, nobody gives a damm on
    the color of your skin.

    Rule #2 Layout your plans IN DETAILS
    (must be logical) so that
    Americans can see what to
    expect from you.

    Rule #3 Always be humble, dont try to
    talk big because nobody will
    respect you

    Rule #4 Dont try to talk bad about
    your competitors, it will do
    you more harm than good

    If you stick to these rules, I think you will be OK. Good luck and God bless you.

    Mr Ang

    November 3, 2007 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  19. TheInsider

    He won't quit until he's at least THIRD.
    He stands a good chance too.

    November 3, 2007 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  20. Tere, FL

    Obama is not vying for VP, Bill Richardson is. Coz Obama is too strong a figure to bend to Hillary's BS so whoever says Hillary will not give him VP, that is wonderful news coz Obama will never bow down to Hillary's flip-flopping. Yes he is running for first place and he will win starting with Iowa. i can feel the anger in people like TheInsider and Kyu Reisch, they cannot believe Obama is going to win this thing. Kyu Reisch only you and Hillary think that Obama is naive and inexperienced after last democratic debate where Hillary screwed up her chances like hell, it only shows your judgement still pandering to Hillary. What can Hillary say that makes sense without contradicting herself. At least Obama is brave enough to say that he is not running for VP unlike Hillary who has to conduct a poll before saying anything. I am glad you think Obama has teenage dreams coz you know what many times those dreams come true and this time it will come true. Somebody had a dream and that dream allows you today to spew all those hatred comments about Obama in the comfort of your room. A. Thomas winning will start with Iowa and Michelle is right, just sit back and watch Hillary lose big time. I am waiting to hear what you will have to say after having such a difficult time defending the Clintonisats after humiliating defeat at the debate this week.

    November 3, 2007 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  21. Henry, Phoenix AZ

    What a stupid soundbyte. Does this guy have any substance at all?

    November 3, 2007 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  22. Erik

    What a great speech! He's sounds like a civil rights leader. I love it! It's very inspirational for this black man! Obama 08!

    November 3, 2007 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  23. Arshad, Newburgh, NY

    For the sake of completeness, here is the full speech instead of sound bites. Let people read and judge for themselves, CNN, so called trsuted news network with full of distortion and lies.

    Read it with an open mind and see how this man is instrumental to bridge racial and political division in this country and why we can't afford not to elect him instead of an ambitious, whining, corrupt woman who is looking to live up to her own ambition as opposed to a strong agenda for all of us.

    It’s a special honor to be here in Clarendon County. Because Clarendon County is the place that showed me and showed America that when ordinary people come together, they can do extraordinary things.

    That’s the Clarendon County I know.

    I know how sixty years ago, the NAACP’s James Hinton dared to ask why white children could ride buses to school but black children had to walk.

    I know how Reverend J.A. DeLaine, a preacher and teacher in Summerton, heard that call and joined with Levi Pearson, a father who was sick and tired of seeing his children walk nine miles to school, and with Harry and Eliza Briggs and more than a dozen other Black parents to challenge unequal education.

    I know that because of that challenge, Harry Briggs lost his job at the local service station, Eliza Briggs lost hers at a local hotel, and Reverend DeLaine’s home was burned to the ground while the fire department stood by and watched.

    It would have been easy for them to stay home. To heed the voices of caution and convenience that said, “wait,” “the timing isn’t right,” or “the country just isn’t ready.” It would have been easy for them to give in to the fears that no doubt kept them awake some nights.

    But I know that because they were willing to overcome their fears and reach for a larger dream, the Supreme Court overturned “separate but equal,” and Congress passed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

    And I know that I stand on their shoulders, that their courage and sacrifice six decades ago makes it possible for me to run today for President of the United States.

    So I know Clarendon County. The Clarendon County that showed a nation how to look up rather than down. The Clarendon County that made a claim on the American Dream. The Clarendon County that changed the course of history.

    But I also know another Clarendon County.

    I know schools in the Corridor of Shame.

    I know J.V. Martin Junior High School in Dillon was built more than a century ago, and for years had shattered windows, leaking ceilings, and broken bathrooms.

    I know South Carolina has the worst high school dropout rate in America.

    I know that all across this nation, one out of every four children go to schools just like J. V. Martin, and take away the same message that we don’t care enough about their education to do better by them.

    I know that America today is still blind to the poverty in our midst, and that we still tolerate Jena justice for some and Scooter Libby justice for others.

    I know that Black parents in Clarendon are still having to go to court to give their children an equal education – fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education.

    There is another side of Clarendon County, another side of America, still waiting for what Harry and Eliza Briggs hoped for. The hope that our children’s destinies aren’t written before they are born. The hope that one day the world as it is and the world as it should be might be one and the same.

    That is why I stand before you today as a candidate for President of the United States of America.

    I am running because I refuse to accept that the way it is, is the way it has to be. I refuse to accept it when I hear adults say things like “these kids can’t learn” or “these kids come from tough backgrounds” or “these kids are too far behind.” We need to start treating “these kids” like “our kids.”

    I am running because I want a sense of urgency about our kids in Washington. When I’m in the White House, we’ll reform No Child Left Behind so we don’t leave the money behind. We’ll recruit an army of new teachers – and make sure they come teach here in Manning – because the most important factor in a child’s education is the person standing at the head of the classroom. We’ll invest in early childhood education because for every dollar we put there, we get seven dollars back in reduced dropout rates, reduced delinquency, and reduced prison rates, and more young people can go to college and get good jobs. And we’ll rebuild our broken schools.

    We know why this matters. It’s not just that a good education is essential to helping the children of today compete more effectively as the workers of tomorrow. It’s that the promise of a good education makes it possible for every child to transcend the barriers of race and class and background and achieve their God-given potential. That’s why Harry and Eliza Briggs put their names on that lawsuit. That’s why so many others risked so much to give their children an equal education. That’s my story. That’s what the American story is supposed to be about.

    That cause is worth fighting for. A quality education is worth fighting for. Universal health care is worth fighting for. Economic opportunity is worth fighting for. Equality is still worth fighting for.

    And when I’m President, we’re going to have a government that helps us win these fights. Not because it’s up to me alone. Not because I have a corner on all the best ideas. But because I understand that we need more than a new campaign or candidate – we need a movement. We need a president ready to partner with you and not too important to do so, ready to move the American people to common cause on these issues, and willing to ask you to do your part – not just as voters, but as citizens.

    Because the truth is, no matter how many government programs we launch or how many tax dollars we spend, we can still fall short if each of us is unwilling to do our own part. If we’re unwilling to be responsible parents and turn off the TV, put away the video games, read to our child, and attend those parent/teacher conferences.

    We can still fall short if we don’t heal the hole in the hearts of all those young men standing on street corners in every city in this country without a sense of any destiny other than ending up in jail or dead. And healing that hole is going to take more than a change in policy; it’s going to take a change of heart.

    We’re going to have to reclaim in our own lives the belief that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper. It’s the belief that led folks in Clarendon not to turn their backs on Harry Briggs and his fellow foot soldiers, but to offer them money when their credit was cut at the local store, and a place to stay when they were kicked off the land. It’s the belief that led a white judge named J. Waites Waring to stand by their side even after a cross was burned on his lawn and shots were fired into his living room. And it’s the belief that led me into public service more than two decades ago.

    As some of you may know, after college, I walked away from a career on Wall Street, and went to work with a group of churches as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago so I could fight for folks who had lost their jobs when the local steel plant closed. And ever since, I’ve been fighting to put the American Dream within reach for every American. That’s why I went to work as a civil rights lawyer, and as a state Senator and as a U.S. Senator. That’s why I expanded health care to 150,000 children and their parents in Illinois. That's why I led the fight to reform a death penalty system that had sentenced 13 innocent men to death. That’s why I led the fight to reform racial profiling. And that’s why you can trust that I’ll fight for you as President.

    Now, I’ve heard that some folks aren’t sure America is ready for an African-American president, so let me be clear: I never would have begun this campaign if I weren’t confident I could win. But you see, I am not asking anyone to take a chance on me. I am asking you to take a chance on your own aspirations.

    Just imagine what we could do as partners in an Obama administration. Imagine a President who was raised like I was by a single mom who had to work and go to school and raise her kids and accept food stamps for a while. Imagine a President who could go into Holly Courts Apartments here in Manning or Scott’s Branch High School in Summerton, and give the young men and women there someone to look up to. Imagine a President who fought each day to narrow the gap between the world as it is and the world as it should be.

    Narrowing that gap is not going to be easy. But real change never is. I can still remember one of the early days when I was just starting out as a community organizer in Chicago. We had set up a meeting to figure out how to rebuild our neighborhoods, but no one showed up. And our volunteers felt so defeated, they wanted to quit. And I was tired too.

    But at that moment, I looked outside and saw some young boys playing in a vacant lot across the street, tossing stones at a boarded-up apartment building. And I turned to the volunteers, and I asked them, “Before you quit, I want you to answer one question. What’s gonna happen to those boys?” I thought, if we cannot put aside our doubts and our cynicism; if we cannot see that we have a stake in those children; if we don’t realize that the fight for their future is the fight for our own, who will? One by one, the volunteers decided to stay. And block by block, we began to turn those neighborhoods around.

    So today, sixty years after James Hinton issued his challenge, I want to issue a challenge of my own. If you’re tired of the politics of fear and division; if you’re tired of a government that stands idly by while our schools go underfunded, our children go unemployed, and our communities are neglected; if you feel as I do that if we don’t fight for that next generation of children, who will? – then I’m asking you to join me. And if you can do that – if you can overcome your doubts, cast away your fears, and believe once again that real change is possible in this country – then I truly believe we can bring about the world that Harry and Eliza Briggs dreamed of for their children.

    November 3, 2007 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  24. Robert

    Bee – this is not accent, this is sleng of American language, simplified by simplified uneducated mind who speak much worse English than many imnmigrants. Now, with the usual reverance to political correctness, uneducated and simplifed whites speak no better English. However, you'd expect form person with alaw degree, elected to be a US Sennator (and yes, he's a junior Illinois Senator as much as Hillary is a junior NY Senator, that how we call them in this country) and wanted to be a President to at least be able to master a language most people talk in this country. And he's able to do it, if you watched the debate. So downgrading himself if not to ebonics, but to inner-city sleng is insulting not only to the rest of the country but also to the people he tries to pander. This is the same as going to meeting with students and start with "Hey, dudes, whasup!" And speaking of VP ticket – nobody ever offer it to him because he won't bring any meaningful electorate into the ticket and as a VP, he'll be a liability as much as Dick Cheney is (or, in 14 months we finally will be able to say "was").

    November 3, 2007 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  25. Mitty, Miami Garden, Florida

    Greetings from Miami,Florida. There are more black folk here that loves Obama than dislike him. He has our votes. He speaks what on his mind, he doesn't flip-flop, he does not playe the gender card. Hillary is a household word, no one likes her. We black Miamians have pledge not to vote in the General election if hillary wins. Although Kendrick Meek endorsed her, that means nothing, we will vote for someone that has an agenda and knows where they want to take the country. Hillary is a cry baby. She cannot answer important questions.
    Obama 2008!

    November 3, 2007 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
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