November 16th, 2008
10:55 AM ET
14 years ago

Obama offers 'very affectionate thanks' to Illinois residents

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Obama has resigned from the Senate, effective Sunday."] (CNN) - President-elect Barack Obama wrote a letter to Illinois residents published in the state's newspapers Sunday, the day his resignation from the Senate became official.

Full text of the letter:

Today, I am ending one journey to begin another. After serving the people of Illinois in the United States Senate — one of the highest honors and privileges of my life — I am stepping down as senator to prepare for the responsibilities I will assume as our nation’s next president. But I will never forget, and will forever be grateful, to the men and women of this great state who made my life in public service possible.

More than two decades ago, I arrived in Illinois as a young man eager to do my part in building a better America. On the South Side of Chicago, I worked with families who had lost jobs and lost hope when the local steel plant closed. It wasn’t easy, but we slowly rebuilt those neighborhoods one block at a time, and in the process I received the best education I ever had. It’s an education that led me to organize a voter registration project in Chicago, stand up for the rights of Illinois families as an attorney and eventually run for the Illinois state Senate.

It was in Springfield, in the heartland of America, where I saw all that is America converge — farmers and teachers, businessmen and laborers, all of them with a story to tell, all of them seeking a seat at the table, all of them clamoring to be heard. It was there that I learned to disagree without being disagreeable; to seek compromise while holding fast to those principles that can never be compromised, and to always assume the best in people instead of the worst. Later, when I made the decision to run for the United States Senate, the core decency and generosity of the American people is exactly what I saw as I traveled across our great state — from Chicago to Cairo; from Decatur to Quincy.

I still remember the young woman in East St. Louis who had the grades, the drive and the will but not the money to go to college. I remember the young men and women I met at VFW halls across the state who serve our nation bravely in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I will never forget the workers in Galesburg who faced the closing of a plant they had given their lives to, who wondered how they would provide health care to their sick children with no job and little savings.

Stories like these are why I came to Illinois all those years ago, and they will stay with me when I go to the White House in January. The challenges we face as a nation are now more numerous and difficult than when I first arrived in Chicago, but I have no doubt that we can meet them. For throughout my years in Illinois, I have heard hope as often as I have heard heartache. Where I have seen struggle, I have seen great strength. And in a state as broad and diverse in background and belief as any in our nation, I have found a spirit of unity and purpose that can steer us through the most troubled waters.

It was long ago that another son of Illinois left for Washington. A greater man who spoke to a nation far more divided, Abraham Lincoln, said of his home, “To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything.” Today, I feel the same, and like Lincoln, I ask for your support, your prayers, and for us to “confidently hope that all will yet be well.”

With your help, along with the service and sacrifice of Americans across the nation who are hungry for change and ready to bring it about, I have faith that all will in fact be well. And it is with that faith, and the high hopes I have for the enduring power of the American idea, that I offer the people of my beloved home a very affectionate thanks.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Illinois
soundoff (72 Responses)
  1. Dadi

    Good luck in the White House!

    November 16, 2008 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  2. Lisa

    From a neighboring Wisconsinite, we are proud to have you as our next president...

    November 16, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  3. Cindy, Kansas City

    Every time I hear President Obama speak, every time I read his words, I think "This is why I voted for this man." His sincerity, his intelligence, his love for people shine through. For this President, his pen, because it is his own, will indeed be mighty.

    November 16, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  4. Vic

    I love this man.... he is so humble and so caring.
    He will be an excellent president.

    November 16, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  5. robin melton

    i live in southeast missouri,and am a self emloyed electrician.southeast misouri is redneck central u.s.a. i yoted for obama and something very unpresidented has happend since the election .so many people have came out of the bigotted closset and are now all for obama .i am 50 tears old and even my father has never seen such a positive outpouring to are new some form or fashion it has given people a new hope that as human beings we can rise above the hatred and bigotry our coutry has been clouded under for so long. i say bravo to the american people and submit that we should be time magazines person of the year. robin l.melton

    November 16, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  6. NY student in Baltimore

    I feel like WE ARE ALL ILLINOAN reading this piece...its very moving. Lead us Obama...we are all behind you.

    November 16, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  7. Mark, B'ham., Al.

    Especially the Chicago Political Machine which taught the other major cities to implement their 1960's political voting techniques!

    November 16, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  8. Janice Illinois

    as it stands, Illinois (my state) was just a stepping stone for Obama. We wish him well and hope that he can bring progress for our nation.

    November 16, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  9. Reality

    Mr. Obama, America knows Abraham Lincoln, and you sir are no Abraham Lincoln.

    November 16, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  10. Pierre Podo

    Dear President Elect,

    I always send this pieces of messages to my son, bcs when he was just four years old , he told me he wanted to be the President of our country. I implore you to continue to inspire the young generation with your humble words, so that with time the worlds nations will be run by people of Hope, dignity and love as you are.

    America , cannot do it alone, so we also believe you cannot succeed alone if the Americans and the world do not see the values of your ideals. We do wish you a great time in Washinton. God Bless.
    Pierre Podo

    November 16, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  11. Carolyn - Okla.

    Thank you President-elect Obama. I am so grateful that the Lord has allowed me to live to see the day that a man of your race is about to step into the most powerful office in the world.

    I truly belive that we will see a wonderful change in our great USA. Leadership is the key and I am positive that our new leader has the key.

    November 16, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  12. USA

    Very moving!

    November 16, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  13. Dee

    President-elect Obama truely inspires a great deal of hope. My hope is that the people of the United States will continue to rally around him and give him the support that he needs to improve and elevate our country to the place, that we have demonstrated, we deserve to be.

    November 16, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  14. SmithonPoliticsCom

    Very thoughtful letter; I can't escape the value of a thoughtful President. Such a quality won't lead to the resolution of all of our nations problems, but they suredly will help in crafting the best solutions to push it toward that goal. I am a young man so the only President I've watched up close has been George W. Bush – I don't remember many details of the Clinton Presidency. I hope that Obama lives up to the hope and promise that we have placed in him. It is possible.

    November 16, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  15. Dr. Richard A. Heckler

    I believe we have only seen a small part of this soon to be great leader. Already he demonstrates a depth of character, breadth of intelligence and humanity we have not witnessed in the White House in a long, long time.

    November 16, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  16. Louis

    Is is enlightening to see such a well written letter of thanks. President Elect Obama reflects the true spirit of America, in hard times as well as good ones. He gives us hope that we can overcome the diviseness of the political campaign and the greed of Wall Street opportunists. I was born in the Great Depression. This one, by whatever name it is called is a wake-up call to the young and middle aged Americans. Nothing of value comes from taking advantage of others, sooner or later, others pay you back in kind.

    November 16, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  17. Cathy R., Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Illinois: You have not lost a great Senator, you've given the USA a chance for hope and a better future for the entire world, and for that I thank you!

    November 16, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  18. There IS hope for the future>>>

    No matter what anyone says, Obama is treking into the unknown and I know we will have a great leader. Times will be rough and he will have his critics, but, I say, let them try to do the things Obama has set out to do in this great nation and bring us back from the terrible injustices done by so few that affect so many...

    November 16, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  19. Kimberly from Houston, TX

    I will be proud to call you my President on Januaray 20th at 12 noon. God bless you Barack Obama.

    November 16, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  20. just a thought

    what a beautiful letter, bless you president obama.

    November 16, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  21. me

    God bless you senator.We are all counting on you after you take office

    November 16, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  22. Roger

    The thank you letter was heart felt and a hiistorical journey for Barrack Obama. The cities noted are truly the " The Land of Lincoln". It this reason I am reminded also of Dred vs Scott & Roe vs Wade. It is upon these moments that I reflect & hope that it does not take " four score and seven years" for this "change" of complete civil rights to happen. Amen.

    November 16, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |

    Take note people:

    President-Elect Obama didn't have to write this letter. The man has good manners.

    November 16, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  24. Ndasi Lionel

    Thank U

    November 16, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  25. Larry

    I'm NOT hungry for an unknown CHANGE,change for the sake of change doesn't mean it's going to be for the BETTER,it could very well be change for the worse.What Positive things are indeed going to happen?So far it appears to be the Clinton administration is returning,in other words ,more of the same ol',same ol'.That's maybe good though.

    November 16, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
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