Excerpts from Obama's 2015 Selma speech to be built into the outside of his presidential center

Excerpts from Obama's 2015 Selma speech to be built into the outside of his presidential center
© Obama Foundation

Excerpts from the speech former President Obama delivered in 2015 commemorating the 50th anniversary of the "Bloody Sunday" march will be etched into the exterior of his forthcoming state-of-the-art presidential center in Chicago.

The Obama Foundation unveiled artwork of the planned design for the outside of the center in a tweet on Sunday, the same date hundreds of people that had gathered for a voting rights march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery were met with weapons and tear gas from state troopers 56 years ago. 

The text on the outside of the center will read as follows: “You are America. Unconstrained by habit and convention. Unencumbered by what is, ready to seize what ought to be. For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, there is new ground to cover, there are more bridges to be crossed. America is not the project of any one person.”


“The single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ ‘We The People.’ ‘We Shall Overcome.’ ‘Yes We Can.’ That word is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone. Oh, what a glorious task we are given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours,” it continues. 

Obama made the comments from Selma in 2015 in a speech marking the anniversary of the historic events, which happened six months before President Lyndon B. Johnson would go on to sign the Voting Rights Act into law.

In the speech, Obama, the first Black American to become president, acknowledged some of the progress seen in the nation regarding racial issues since the 1965 march. But he also said at the time that the “march is not yet over,” while calling on Congress to “restore” the Voting Rights Act.

At the time, the late Rep. John LewisJohn LewisTrump and Biden should stop denigrating US elections Democrats say change to filibuster just a matter of time Despite Senate setbacks, the fight for voting rights is far from over MORE (D-Ga.), who helped lead the march as then-chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and was injured that day, reflected on the historical significance behind what it meant to introduce the nation's first Black president. 

"On that day, 600 people marched into history," Lewis, who died at age 80 last year, said then.

Obama said in the video released by his foundation announcing the design on Sunday that part of the reason his team thought that the excerpt was appropriate to have “etched in the building itself is because it speaks to the priorities of the foundation.”

“Our goal is not to just create a monument to my presidency, but rather to describe for anybody who visits how Michelle and I and so many others stood on the shoulders on those who fought the good fight before us,” he said. “So, my hope is, is that in the same way that John Lewis gave me this sense of meaning and purpose, that Michelle and I are able to pass that on because it’s our daughter’s generation.”

“The goal of the Obama presidential center is for them to be able to identify that as an institution and a space that supports them in their vision for the future,” he continued.


Obama announced last month that construction for his presidential center in the South Side of Chicago, where former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaJill Biden adds to communications team in lead-up to midterm elections Michelle Obama: 'Treat fear as a challenge' Barack Obama wishes a happy 58th birthday to 'best friend' Michelle MORE was raised and where they both met, will commence later this year. 

In a tweet reacting to the foundation’s recently unveiled design, Michelle Obama wrote: “When young people from my old neighborhood on the South Side see the words ‘You are America’ on the exterior of the Obama Presidential Center, I hope they believe it. Because they matter.”

“They belong,” she added. “And they have the power to shape this country for the better.”