Transcript: On the Trail With Barack Obama

Read the transcript of "Nightline's" interview with Sen. Barack Obama.

ByABC News
February 19, 2009, 8:15 AM

Nov. 26, 2007— -- Democratic presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., sat down with "Nightline" co-anchor Terry Moran on Nov. 24th, 2007 in Iowa. The following is a transcript of the interview.

TERRY MORAN: So let's talk about experience, which you talk about a lot. You said recently that the strongest experience you have in foreign relations is that you grew up for four years as a child in Southeast Asia.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Well, that's not exactly what I said. What I said was I think one of the things that sets me apart is that I spent time in other countries. And this wasn't just the four years that I was actually living in another country. My mother was a specialist in international development, and she, throughout my high school years, was traveling back and forth.

And so I was traveling all around the world at a very early age. And that had a formative influence on how I view the world. So at a very early age, I understood what deep, dire poverty meant, in a way that is hard for Americans to appreciate unless you've seen it up close, outside of this country, in the same way that I had and still have relatives who live in small villages in Africa, where they don't have electricity or running water.

And those shape and inform my judgments and, in many ways, I think give me insights into how the world thinks about America, thinks about us, that I think are unique in this field.

MORAN: And so what you learned at age 10, say, in Indonesia will really, truly make a practical difference for what you would do in the Oval Office in 2009?

OBAMA: You know, I think it's the same as the experience, the story that I tell about my mother dying of cancer, and those experiences of watching her and the health care system. It's the same experience presumably that John Edwards draws upon when he talks about growing up and seeing his father in a mill town.

You know, those kinds of experiences shape your attitudes in a way that reading books or, you know, taking seminars or taking a congressional delegation do not.

MORAN: It's different, isn't it?


MORAN: Do you think Americans are challenged by voting potentially for a presidential candidate who didn't have an American boyhood?

OBAMA: Oh, well, I think that it is both a challenge and an opportunity. I think there's no doubt that the fact that my name is Barack Obama and that my father was from Kenya and that I grew up in Hawaii that there's that whole exotic aspect to me that people, I think, have to get past. But they also, surprisingly enough, even in rural Iowa, recognize the opportunity to send a signal to the world that, you know, we are not as ingrown, as parochial as you may perceive or as the Bush administration seems to have communicated, that we are, in fact, embracing the world, we are listening, we are concerned, we want to be engaged.

We want to be safe. We want to be treated fairly. We want to make sure that, whether it's on trade relations or dealing with terrorism, that our national interests are dealt with. But we also recognize that we're part of the world community. And I think it was interesting, just here in Dunlap, you notice that some of the biggest applause was when I talked about wanting America to be respected again in the world. People understand this in a very significant way.

MORAN: Now, Hillary Clinton mocked your claim that your childhood experience would be relevant to foreign policy. She said she is a person that world leaders know, they look up to, and they're confident in, and she wouldn't need on-the-job training to be president. That's a pretty sharp jab.

OBAMA: You know, we must be doing pretty well in Iowa. She wasn't paying much attention to what I said before then.

MORAN: But she does -- her claim is that as somebody who was in the White House, lived in the White House for eight years, she's far more prepared to deal with world problems than you are.

OBAMA: Well, look, you know, if this a resume contest, then she certainly doesn't have the strongest resume of the people on the stage. I mean, I think that -- you know, if the question is longevity in Washington, then probably the top three candidates right now in the Democratic primary can't make that claim.

The question is, who's got the judgment and the vision to move the country forward? And I believe -- I wouldn't be running if I did not think that I've got the best judgment, in terms of what the country needs right now, both internationally and domestically, and if I did not believe that I can be the most effective agent for change, in terms of how we do business.

And so, you know, I've been in Washington long enough to know how it works. I've sat on Senate Foreign Relations Committees. I have traveled around the world in my capacity as a U.S. senator. I have confidence in my knowledge base to deal with the problems around the world. But what is most important, I think, is my capacity to prepare the damage that's been done around the world, and I think that I can present a new foreign policy and a new way of doing business that the world will respond to.