President Barack Obama on Tuesday delivered an inspiring farewell address to the nation, from the very place he celebrated his historic victory eight years ago.
Speaking from his hometown of Chicago, Ill., Obama reminded the country that “change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged and come together to demand it, calling that principle the “beating heart … of our bold experiment in self-government.” The president also aimed to express his gratitude towards the people who helped him get to where he is today.
Obama took the stage to thunderous applause from the thousands in attendance, beginning his speech shortly after 9/8c.
“My fellow Americans, Michelle and I have been so touched by all the well-wishes that we’ve received over the past few weeks,” the president began. “But tonight, it’s my turn to say thanks. Whether we have seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the American people — in living rooms and in schools, in farms and on factory floors, in diners and on distant military outposts — have kept me honest, kept me inspired and kept me going. Every day, I have learned from you. You made me a better president, and you made me a better man.”
He continued, “We are all created equal, endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights — among them, life, liberty and the pursuits of happiness. These rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executed. We the people, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union. What a radical idea, the great gift our founders gave to us. … For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given purpose to each new generation.”
Obama went on to discuss the triumphs of the past eight years: the reversal of a recession, the passing of marriage equality, securing the right to health insurance for 20 million Americans, the reboot of the auto industry, the assassination of Osama bin Laden and the “longest stretch of job creation in our history.”
“That’s what you did,” he told the crowd. “You were the change. Because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started.”
As for Donald Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, Obama said, “I committed to present-elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me. Because it’s up to all of us to make sure our government can help us meet the many challenges we still face. We have what we need to do so. We have everything we need to meet those challenges. … Our potential will only be realized if our democracy works, if our politics better reflects the decency of our people.”
Obama then discussed the remaining threats to our democracy, concluding that “we’re not where we need to be” in terms of treating each other equally, particularly when it comes to race relations: “If we’re unwilling to invest in the children of immigrants because they don’t look like us,” he said, “we’re diminishing the potential of our own kids.”
Quoting To Kill a Mockingbird‘s Atticus Finch, he reminded Americans, “You never really understand a person until you consider things form his point of view, until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.”
“For all our outward differences, we’re all in this together,” he declared. “We rise and fall as one.”
Obama’s final speech comes just 10 days before president-elect Trump is set to be sworn into office. A pre-inauguration special, America’s First Family: The Trumps Go to Washington, will air Jan. 19 at 10/9c on ABC.
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