Obama in Springfield, Then and Now

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Russell has a great story today on President Obama’s return to the Illinois capital, where he announced his candidacy for the White House exactly nine years ago. Speaking to the state legislature, Obama, his hair much grayer now, lamented his failure to close “the yawning gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics.” Watch the full speech here:

“The smallness of our politics” appeared in Obama’s 2007 speech, too. Back then, Obama sounded, unsurprisingly, a lot more more hopeful about remedying that:

Then-Senator Obama said it was in Springfield that “we learned to disagree without being disagreeable—that it’s possible to compromise so long as you know those principles that can never be compromised; and that so long as we’re willing to listen to each other, we can assume the best in people instead of the worst.”

Washington? That, he would learn, is a whole ’nother ballgame.