The crowds were chanting “Four more years! Four more years!”
Humble in his reply, President Barack Obama told them, “I can’t do that.”
Breaking conventions has been a characteristic trait of one of the most popular U.S. presidents in History. Obama decided to travel to Chicago to be with the people for his final speech, a first for a departing U.S. President, discarding the comfort of the Oval Office or the East Room that have hosted so many final speeches before. Chicago is the city Obama gave his victory speeches in both 2008 and 2012. And today, once again he addressed a sold-out crowd in the windy city. Obama calls it the city “where it all started” and had the following to say about it in his speech.
“I first came to Chicago when I was in my early twenties, still trying to figure out who I was; still searching for a purpose to my life. This is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.”
Obama said that he believes he has made America a better and stronger place than it was when he started his campaign in 2008. Of course, the politically humble President ascribed the success to “we” rather than to himself. Obama wanted everyone to know that he hadn’t abandoned his vision of progressive change.
“This is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it. After eight years as your President, I still believe that. And it’s not just my belief. It’s the beating heart of our American idea — our bold experiment in self-government.”
Obviously, at some point, Obama had to address Donald Trump’s policies and the transition between his administration and that of Trump. He started by taking a jab at the president-elect.
“For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back.”
Addressing Trump’s immigration policies, Obama pointed out that the U.S. must invest in the children of immigrants, as they represent a growing share of the workforce. He also declared that he would publicly support a health-plan brought along by the Trump administration if it is “demonstrably better” than the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare, enacted by his administration in 2010. He then took jabs at Trump’s climate change policies saying that to deny climate change would be to betray the “essential spirit of innovation” of America’s founding fathers. He also addressed the changing political climate in the world and how this could affect America.
“Rivals like Russia, China cannot match our influence around the world unless we give up what we stand for.”
Obama: "Rivals like Russia, China cannot match our influence around the world unless we give up what we stand for." https://t.co/Pe2qkADoGu— CNN (@CNN) January 11, 2017
But for his supporters, the looming Trump Presidency represents a diversion all the progress made during President Obama’s tenure. But Obama said that it was important that the two sides work together, himself ensuring that there would be a smooth transition between his administration and the Trump administration. He also urged the people to work together despite their political differences, at one point even quoting Atticus Finch, the fictitious character who plays the father and a lawyer in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…”
Obama quotes Atticus Finch: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…" https://t.co/w4KUFx4tFb— CNN (@CNN) January 11, 2017
Obama warned that the rise of “naked partisanship” was a threat to America’s democracy.
“For all our outward differences, we’re all in this together… We rise or fall as one.”
He, however, demonstrated hope for the future, speaking about the next generation of Americans.
“The future is in good hands.”
Obama addressed an audience of more than 20,000, which included his former staff and his most avid supporters. Obama’s aides described the usually unsentimental President as being nostalgic before the speech. First lady Michelle Obama gave her own heartfelt final speech at the White House earlier in the week, as a part of a ceremony honoring the 2017 school counselor of the year.
[Feature Image by Scott Olson/Getty Images]