Though President Obama's first public reaction to the Fort Hood massacre was savaged by conservatives, his second—a November 11 eulogy honoring the shooter's victims—is being called his "best speech ever" by a wide range of opinion-makers. Of course, the media has a habit of reaching for conclusive superlatives when describing the President's verbal gifts, as this timeline shows.
1. "OBAMA'S NOW-LEGENDARY SPEECH"
Keynote address to the Democratic National Convention, delivered in Chicago, IL, on June 27, 2004.
What Obama said: In the 17-minute address that prompted a Philadelphia Daily News story called "Who the Heck is This Guy?", the then-unknown State Legislator spoke "unforgettably" about issues that hit middle-class Americans where they lived: outsourcing, unemployment, and the skyrocketing cost of healthcare.
Media praise: “Before the speech, the idea of Obama running for president in 2008 would have been laughable,” said David Bernstein at Chicago Magazine. Afterwards, "observers from across the political world hailed the address as an instant classic.”
(Watch Obama's 2004 keynote speech)
2. "THE BEST SPEECH OBAMA HAS EVER GIVEN“
"A Politics of Conscience," delivered at XL Center in Hartford, CT, on June 23, 2007.
What Obama said: The summer before he announced his presidential campaign, Obama discussed his own religious faith and the “conscience of the nation.” He emphasized his belief that moral issues faced by Americans transcended borders of religion and faith.
Media praise: “To be able to express this kind of religious conviction without disturbing or alienating the growing phalanx of secular voters, especially on the left, is quite an achievement," said Andrew Sullivan in Times Online.
3. "BEST SPEECH THIS YEAR"
“A More Perfect Union,” delivered at Constitution Center, Philadelphia, PA, on March 18, 2008.
What Obama said: Drawing on the history of the nation and his own family to explore issues of race and discrimination, Obama surprised critics by acknowledging that Americans are in a “racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years,” then insisting that African-Americans must “embrace the burdens of the past” without “becoming victims” of it.
Media Praise: The speech “peeled away layers to confront sensitive matters that normally go unexamined,” said Nicholas D. Kristof in The New York Times. “It was a masterpiece to go down in history.”
(Watch Obama's speech on race)
4. "THE BEST SPEECH EVER MADE"
Acceptance speech for Democratic presidential nomination, delivered at Mile High Stadium in Denver, CO, on Aug. 28, 2008.
What Obama said: In accepting the nomination, Obama stirred Democratic hearts by emphatically slamming John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, linking him to the "failed policies of George W. Bush."
Media Praise: "The speech was amazing," says an editorial from the Jacksonville Daily News of Jacksonville, NC. "From a perspective of delivery, it may have been the best speech ever made by one of the great orators of all time."
(Watch Obama's 2008 acceptance speech)
5. "BEST SPEECH EVER GIVEN BY AN AMERICAN PRESIDENT"
Cairo address, delivered at Egypt's Cairo University on June 4, 2009.
What Obama said: Obama emphasized shared goals between the Middle East and America: "Let there be no doubt: Islam is part of America...All of us share common aspirations — to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God."
Pundit praise: "It makes sense to talk about common interests and ambitions rather than stigmatize a whole religion by tossing it into the terrorist category," said Terence Samuel at the American Prospect. The president sought to address America's primary foreign-policy problem in the world and "fundamentally changed the dynamics of the relationship in question."
(Watch Obama's Cairo speech)