In a speech during the opening session, Obama said it was while he was in college that he "began to develop a social conscience."
"Or at least, all those values that my mother had whispered in my ear started to come back to me," he said.
He listed three of those values that his mom had shared with him:
- Be kind and be useful and caring about people who are less fortunate than you
- Be a peacemaker rather than an instigator
- Try to lift people up instead of putting them down
It was after that moment that he asked himself, "How can I have an impact?" and "How can I make a difference?"
Obama said he was inspired to take action because of the American civil rights movement and learning about the young people who went door to door to try to register people who had never been able to vote before.
Although he said there weren't any movements around at the time he graduated college, he continued to follow the values his mother gave him. He sought out a community organizer position with a small group of churches on the South Side of Chicago.
"I didn't really know what a community organizer was, but I arrived here and for the next three years I traveled all through the South Side and worked with leaders in churches and block clubs and community organizations," Obama said.