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Barack Obama - Time for Change

The United States presidential election in 2008 ended with a clear win for Barack Obama.

President Obama og familien valgnatta

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Pre-reading questions:

Why was the presidential election of 2008 so historic? Name some reasons as to why so many people voted for Barack Obama? Can a candidate, or in this case, the President, keep his campaign promises? Why/why not?

The United States presidential election in 2008 ended with a clear win for Barack Obama. The majority of voters wanted a new course. Former President George W. Bush had discredited the USA in many parts of the world through his foreign policy. Furthermore, he failed to develop a good environmental strategy for his country. Towards the end, it almost turned into a popular sport to criticize the US President. On the Internet you could throw shoes at him in online games.

Barack Obama is the first black president of the USA. He is an excellent speaker and has inspired people worldwide with his call for change. His major focus will be on restoring the reputation of the USA in foreign affairs, getting on the offensive in the fight against climate change and redesigning the US health service.

Many Americans now feel that the USA is on the right course after years of environmental neglect and an aggressive foreign policy. Obama is a charismatic president, and he seems to be able to make people want to contribute to the changing of America. During his election campaign, he mobilized a massive grass root campaign that proved very efficient.

Talking about what you want to do is one thing. Obama also has to deliver. Issues might look different from the Presidential Office than from the position of opposition. Obama definitely has a lot of issues that demand urgent attention. Many of these will cost a lot of the taxpayers' money. On top of it all, the USA is facing its biggest financial crisis since the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Obama will no doubt need all his oratorical skills to restore the reputation of the USA, especially in issues such as the Middle East and the environment.

"We’ve got a long way ahead", Obama says. It remains to be seen how far Obama can take the American nation. In his speeches, he has made frequent references to Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Whether Obama will be quoted by a future presidential candidate remains to be seen. He has already made some important changes. He has introduced rules that make the running of his administration more open and transparent than what was the case in the last administration. Furthermore, he has signed the Children's Health Insurance Bill which gives health insurance to millions of low-income children, and, in addition, President Obama has worked hard to strengthen the country's relations with their allies abroad.

Many Americans have high expectations of the new President. There is no chance that he can satisfy everyone, and there will most certainly be political setbacks. What is certain is that there is a new sense of optimism in the USA – and that is, perhaps, the most important change of them all.

Tasks and Activities


  1. There is a great deal of talk about the "Obama effect". What do you think this coined phrase means?
  2. What characteristics are most important in a good leader?
  3. How important is charisma and optimism?
  4. How many historic leaders in the world can you name? What qualities do they share?
  5. Listen to and watch parts of Barack Obama's inauguration speech. Focus on his oratory skills.
    • What are your first impressions?
    • How does he strike you as a person?
    • How does he appeal to the people?
    • What words stand out?
    • How important is his body language?


An American 17-year-old about politics
Perhaps more young people should take an interest in political affairs. After all, decisions made by politicians are what define the framework of our daily lives. Many American teenagers are quite indifferent to what goes on on the political scene, but there are also many who have strong opinions about their environment and the people in office. Listen to what this 17-year-old thinks about American politics both internationally and on a local level.

17-Year-Old High-School Student Talking Politics

17-Year-Old High-School Student Talking Politics
  1. What does he say about voting?
  2. He uses the word “hype” about President Obama, what does he mean by that?
  3. What does he say about Obama and the “war on terror”?
  4. What does he see as a problem with the two-party system they have in America?
  5. At the end he mentions “The Tea Party” movement. What is that? Go on the net and see what you can find out.

Further Research

Many Americans see Barack Obama as radical in many ways. Find out about his past and previous occupation that may have contributed to his present platform.

Learning content

Political systems, Democracy & Citizenship

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