their faith and hard work, we both were able to go on to college.
So I know firsthand from their lives and mine that the American dream endures. And you know, what struck me when I first met Barack was that even though he had this funny name, even though he’d grown up all the way across the continent in Hawaii, his family was so much like mine. He was raised by grandparents who were working class folks just like my parents and by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills, just like we did. Like my family, they scrimped and saved so that he could have opportunities they never had themselves.
And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them and even if you don’t agree with them. And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values and pass them on to the next generation, because we want our children and all children in this nation to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.
And as our friendship grew and I learned more about Barack, he introduced me to the work he’d done when he first moved to Chicago after college. Instead of heading to Wall Street, Barack had gone to work in neighborhoods devastated when steel plants shut down and jobs dried up. And he’d been invited back to speak to people from those neighborhoods about how to rebuild their community.
The people gathered together that day were ordinary folks, doing the best they could to build a good life. They were parents living paycheck to paycheck, grandparents trying to get by on a fixed income, men frustrated that they couldn’t support their families after their jobs disappeared. Those folks weren’t asking for a handout or a shortcut. They were ready to work. They wanted to contribute. They believed, like you and I believe, that America should be a place where you can make it if you try. Barack stood up that day and spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about the world as it is and the world as it should be. And he said that all too often we accept the distance between the two and settle for the world as it is, even when it doesn’t reflect our values and aspirations.
But he reminded us that we know what our world should look like. We know what fairness and justice and opportunity look like. And he urged us to believe in ourselves, to find the strength within ourselves to strive for the world as it should be.