Many viewers held back tears and watched proudly – including Michelle Obama and Malia – as President Obama gave his last farewell as the 44th United States President in an emotional speech on Tuesday night. He delivered his farewell address at McCormick Place, Chicago, his hometown, in hopes that his vision of change and equality will continue to thrive in America.
Singer-songwriter and Motown and R&B artist BJ The Chicago Kid took center stage singing a soulful rendition of the national anthem, which set the tone for goodbyes before President Obama gave his speech.
“My fellow Americans,” he began, “Michelle and I have been so touched by all the well-wishes that we’ve received over the past few weeks. But tonight it’s my turn to say thanks.”
The internet flooded with memes of people sad to see him go and others proud at a job well done!
The president remained the same humble and politically savvy man as he was back when he took office 8 years ago, ensuring America that he wasn’t just a teacher through his services but also a student.
“Whether we have seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all,” he said. “My conversations with you, the American people — in living rooms and in schools; at farms and on factory floors; at diners and on distant military outposts — those conversations are what have kept me honest, and kept me inspired, and kept me going. And every day, I have learned from you. You made me a better president, and you made me a better man.”
He reflected on his early 20’s as a young adult moving to Chicago, searching for his purpose and unaware of the legacy that awaited him.
“It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss,” he continued. Then, the crowd chanted, “four more years.”
Although his term has come to an end, President Obama continues to have faith that if we continue to live surrounding the values, which structured the American democracy for 240 years – equality for all to follow our dreams and the pursuit of happiness and for all to have economic opportunity – we can form a more perfect union if we live on these principals.
“For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation,” he said. “It’s what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom.”
“It’s what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande,”
he continued. “It’s what pushed women to reach for the ballot. It’s what powered workers to organize. It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima; Iraq and Afghanistan — and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well.”
He spoke about meeting these challenges in our democracy by educating kids and creating good jobs for people of all race and background as well as protecting our homeland.
Through President Obama’s term, he has done a lot more than what he had promised: reverse a great recession, double our renewable energy, reboot our auto industry, unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history, 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, achieve marriage equality, provide health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens. Those were some of the things he touched upon and also gave some of the credit to the people.
“Because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started,” he said.
He mentioned, however, some of the challenges that the country still faces such as environmental issues, economic disruptions, the stark inequality of wealth and income between the top 1 percent and many of our families in inner cities and in rural counties share, which have been left behind.
He urged families that in order for the country to continue to thrive it must be serious about creating opportunity for race going forward as well as acknowledge the inopportunity.
“We need to uphold laws against discrimination — in hiring, and in housing, and in education, and in the criminal justice system. That is what our Constitution and highest ideals require,” he said. “But laws alone won’t be enough. Hearts must change.”
He recognized his successor Donald Trump, and gave a peaceful transition of power as promised. However, he warned of some of the problems that could arise with the new commander-in-chief such as “economic inequity, racism and closed-mindedness.” He insisted that we instead work harder to understand each other’s struggles.
His wish is to keep the essential sprit of our country – “an order based not just on military power or national affiliations, but built on principles, the rule of law, human rights, freedom of religion and speech and assembly and an independent press.”
The highlight of the night was his speech to his wife giving her credit for her services.
“Michelle,” he said as he was met with long rowdy cheer. “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,” he said. “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 also showed his appreciation for his daughters.
“Malia and Sasha,” he said. “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. 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.”
He thanked, Joe Biden, staff and all Americans.
“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 remaining days. But for now, whether you are young or whether you’re 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.”
We’re surely going to miss President Obama!
“Yes we can. Yes we did. Yes we can.”
Written by: Taylor Bennett