Barack Obama says goodbye in emotional Farewell Address

Barack Obama says goodbye in emotional Farewell Address

Barack Obama gave his final speech as President of the United States, and wept as he thanked his family for their support during his eight years in the White House.

Barack Obama gave his final speech as President of the United States, and wept as he thanked his family for their support during his eight years in the White House.

Tearfully, he thanked his family for their support throughout nearly constant applause and cheers.

The Obama family during the Farewell Address in Chicago, January 10, 2017. Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune

He rose to power as the first African American president and offered a message of hope for the future.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible…who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” he said to his home-town Chicago crowd after he won the 2008 election.

Fitting that he should deliver his farewell speech in Chicago, rather than the White House Oval office. The address was delivered on January 10 at McCormick place in front of a crowd of 20,000 supporters and staff.

Obama’s two terms as president were unblemished by scandal. Ever poised, thoughtful, and respectful, Obama acted presidential and classy whether he was in front of the camera or behind closed doors. It’s been reported that even his closest aides failed to recall a single moment when he lost control or gave in to anger. He was also known for his sense of humor.

But after eight years passing on his message of change and hope, Obama used his farewell speech to offer a fearful warning about the state of democracy in America.

Though not directly named, it seemed to be a direct reference to Donald Trump and his campaign, where he attacked immigrants, Muslims, the disabled and women.

“If we don’t create opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come,” Obama said.

He highlighted the importance of democracy, and a smooth transition of power for Mr. Trump.

“Understand democracy does not require uniformity. Our founders argued, they quarreled, and eventually they compromised. They expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity. The idea that, for all our outward differences, we’re all in this together, that we rise or fall as one,” he said.

“There have been moments throughout our history that threatened that solidarity. And the beginning of this century has been one of those times. A shrinking world, growing inequality, demographic change, and the specter of terrorism. These forces haven’t just tested our security and our prosperity, but are testing our democracy as well. And how we meet these challenges to our democracy will determine our ability to educate our kids and create good jobs and protect our homeland.”

He touched on some of his feats throughout his presidency, highlighting some of his major accomplishments.

Vice President Joe Biden gives a standing ovation during the Presidential Farewell Address. Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribiune

“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, 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 — if I had told you all that, 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. The answer to people’s hopes and, because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started.”

With tense race relations within the country, he expressed his hope that going forward, America would uphold laws against discrimination. He said, “race remains a potent and often derisive force in our society.”

“If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves,” he said.

“If we’re unwilling to invest in the children of immigrants, just because they don’t look like us, we will diminish the prospects of our own children — because those brown kids will represent a larger and larger share of America’s workforce.”

He reminded the audience that the stereotypes facing immigrants today are the same that were said years ago, “About the Irish, and Italians, and Poles, who it was said were going to destroy the fundamental character of America. And as it turned out, America wasn’t weakened by the presence of these newcomers; these newcomers embraced this nation’s creed, and this nation was strengthened.”

A strength that hopefully will continue with the new president. With many worried the positive changes Obama’s made are at risk, it’s more important than ever to hold onto the values he tried to instill during his presidency.

Tearfully, he thanked his family for their support throughout nearly constant applause and a standing ovation for First Lady Michelle.

Michelle Obama receives a standing ovation as President Barack Obama thanks her during farewell speech. January 10, 2017.

Michelle Obama receives a standing ovation as President Barack Obama thanks her during farewell speech. January 10, 2017.

“Michelle LaVaughn Robinson of the South Side…for the past 25 years you have not only been my wife and mother of my children, you have been my best friend. You took on a role you didn’t ask for. And you made it your own with grace and with grit and with 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 have made me proud, and you have made the country proud,” he said.

He then addressed his daughters, Malia and a noticeably absent Sasha.

“Under the strangest of circumstances you have become two amazing young women. You are smart and you are beautiful. But more importantly, you are kind and you are thoughtful and you are full of passion. And you wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. Of all that I have done in my life, I am most proud to be your dad.”

Obama ended his speech with the words that made him famous eight years ago.

“Yes we can. Yes we did. Yes we can.”

Watch the full-length video of President Barack Obama’s Farewell Speech below.


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