Obama accepts award at U of I

Zoë Donovan , Editor-In-Chief

Former President Barack Obama made an appearance at the University of Illinois in early September. While the actual visit was to receive an award that honors those who have demonstrated high ethics within their time in government, he also took the opportunity to encourage citizens to go out and vote in the general elections.

Obama opened with jokes and cheers commemorating his time in Illinois. He even poked fun at himself, citing the last time he was asked to make an appearance at the college and declined. He clarified that the closure of the popular pizza restaurant on campus was not why he neglected to visit.

“I want to be clear. I did not take sides in that late-night food debate,”  he joked.

Following this he talked about his personal life, his ability to now spend more time with his wife and what it is like for him as a father following his daughter’s graduation and move onto college. After his personal anecdotes, he gave some remarks regarding leaving the White House.

“I was also intent on following a wise American tradition of ex-presidents gracefully exiting the political stage, making room for new voices and new ideas.”

He spoke a bit about the history of this practice before he came to the main point of his speech.

“I’m here today because this is one of those pivotal moments when every one of us, as citizens of the United States, need to determine just who it is that we are, just what it is that we stand for. And as a fellow citizen, not as an ex-president, but as a fellow citizen, I am here to deliver a simple message, and that is that you need to vote because our democracy depends on it”.

He spoke mostly about the importance of the American public becoming informed and exercising their right to vote. He dismissed the notion that, “everything will turn out OK because there are people inside the White House who secretly aren’t following the President’s orders. That’s not how our democracy is supposed to work.”

He stated the best way to safeguard our institutions and beliefs of self-worth and our rights as Americans, is to vote on the people who are on the public’s side. Voting in public officials who are qualified and have the people’s best interest in mind when they pass laws.

The award he was being presented with was the Paul H. Douglas Award for Ethics in Government. It was established in 1992, 100 years after the birth of Paul Douglas, a former U.S. senator who went to great lengths to promote higher standards of public service. The award is given out annually to those who demonstrate the same qualities.

UIUC students who were interested in seeing the speech live had to enter an online lottery. Over 22,000 students applied to see the former President. However, many could only view it via a live stream on the college website as there were only 1300 seats available.

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