President Barack Obama has bid farewell to the American people.
Obama delivered his final presidential address to the nation Tuesday evening, speaking from his adopted hometown of Chicago’s lakefront convention center McCormick Place, where he spoke in front of a crowd of thousands.
First Lady Michelle Obama (wearing Jason Wu again) and their daughter Malia Obama, 18, accompanied the president on his sentimental trip to Chicago, along with his younger sister, Auma Obama, and close family friend “Mama Kaye” Wilson, who is godmother to both Malia and her sister, Sasha, 15.
Among the highlights:
Michelle – Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, from the Southside, for the past 25 years, you’ve been not only my wife and mother of my children, but my best friend.
You took on a role you didn’t ask for and made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humor. You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody. And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. You’ve made me proud. You’ve made the country proud.
ON MALIA AND SASHA
Malia and Sasha, under the strangest of circumstances, you have become two amazing young women, smart and beautiful, but more importantly, kind and thoughtful and full of passion. You wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. Of all that I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud to be your dad,” the president said.
There’s a second threat to our democracy – one as old as our nation itself. After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic. For race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were ten, or twenty, or thirty years ago – you can see it not just in statistics, but in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum.
ON THE PAST EIGHT YEARS
If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history…if I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, and take out the mastermind of 9/11…if I had told you that we would win marriage equality, and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens – you might have said our sights were set a little too high.
But that’s what we did. That’s what you did. You were the change. You answered people’s hopes, and because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started.
My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you. I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my days that remain. For now, whether you’re young or young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your President – the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago.
I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.
I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written:
Yes We Can.
Yes We Did.
Yes We Can.
Thank you. God bless you. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.
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Obama’s speech was framed as a call to action rather than a recitation of his accomplishments in office.
“It’s a passing of the baton,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on the eve of the president’s farewell address, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The POTUS took to Facebook to write a farewell post before giving his speech. “We’ve made America a better, stronger place for the generations that will follow. We’ve run our leg in a long relay of progress, knowing that our work will always be unfinished,” he shared. “And we’ve reaffirmed the belief that we can make a difference with our own hands, in our own time.”
The president — who was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, but who adopted Chicago as his hometown — chose to deliver his remarks from the Windy City, where he got his start as a young South Side community organizer before being elected to the Illinois Senate, U.S. Senate and eventually the presidency. Obama also addressed Americans in Chicago’s Grant Park after his historic White House run in 2008, and at McCormick Place when he was re-elected in 2012.
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When planning for the farewell speech began last summer, Psaki said Obama asked aides if his remarks had to be delivered from Washington, D.C.
“Chicago was a natural place for him, not just because it’s hometown,” Psaki said, “but because it’s where he got his political start, and it’s where he really first learned the lesson … that it’s about the actions of individuals and the actions of people, that’s how real change happens.”
Obama’s visit to Chicago Tuesday marks his last trip outside Washington, D.C., as president, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, according to USA Today.
In a White House video previewing his remarks, Obama explained, “Part of the reason that I wanted to do this farewell address in Chicago as opposed to the more traditional practice of doing it in the Oval Office or here in the White House is, Chicago is where it all started. So I’ll be thinking back to being a young community organizer pretty much fresh out of school and feeling as if my faith in America’s ability to bring about change in our democracy has been vindicated.”
“The two things I take away from this office are, number one, that change can happen, that the system will respond to ordinary people coming together to try to move the country in a better direction,” the president continued. “And the second thing I’ll take away from this experience is the fundamental goodness of the American people, all of whom are pouring their heart and soul into making their communities work better, supporting their families, moving this country forward, keeping us safe.”
“It gives you a lot of confidence about our prospects for the future,” he concluded.