Oprah: It was really smart to write it when it was flowing and hot.
Barack: Exactly. By the time the speech had been edited for length, I was no longer particularly nervous. I was just making sure I didn't get up on the podium, open my mouth, and have nothing come out.
Oprah: Did you rehearse?
Barack: It turned out that there was a mock podium backstage where I could practice. I'd never used a teleprompter before.
Oprah: No? Get out!
Barack: I usually speak extemporaneously.
Oprah: Well, the speech was perfection.
Barack: I appreciate that.
Oprah [to Barack's wife, Michelle]: Were you nervous for him?
Michelle: We're pretty low-key, but I was on the edge of my seat. He's a terrific speaker; he delivers in so many high-pressure moments. My question was: Will he really knock it out of the park? When he walked out onstage, all those OBAMA signs went up, and we just felt the energy of people being with us. That's when I was like, "Yes, he's going to do this."
Oprah: You could feel it. Barack, during the speech, there was a moment when you locked in and got your rhythm. I said, "He's gone!"
Barack: And it's in that moment that you know it's not just about you. It's about the audience and their energy and their story being told through you. The news coverage was very flattering. But the best sign came when we were walking down the street in Boston and the hotel doormen and the cops and the bus drivers were saying, "Good speech."
Oprah: That's when you know you hit the ball out of the park and it's still flying.
Barack: It's when you know you've gone beyond the political insiders.
Michelle: And that obligatory "You did a good job."
Barack: When we came back, we went on a downstate RV tour—39 cities, five days.
Michelle: With the kids.
Oprah: Isn't politics fun?
Barack: Even in conservative Republican counties, 1,200 people would just show up at 9 on a Sunday morning.
Oprah: Did that response solidify your message?
Barack: It confirms the instincts that got me into politics. I believe the American people are decent people. They get confused sometimes because they get bad information or they're just busy and stressed and not paying attention. But when you sit down and talk with them, you're struck by how tolerant and loving they are.
Oprah: Most people honestly want to do as well as they can in their lives.
Barack: Exactly. They've got their struggles and heartaches, but they're basically good.
We Hear You!