“In ten days, the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy,” Obama said.
Outgoing President Barack Obama wrapped up his eight-year tenure in the White House by cautioning against everything that incoming President Donald Trump has publicly embraced, including anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-women, anti-gay, pro-Russian and pro-rich sentiments.
Obama said good-bye to the nation with his farewell speech in Chicago against the backdrop of one of the most corrosive elections in U.S history. The crowds roared “four more years, four more years”, even as Obama tried to quite the very emotional gathering and said “I can’t do that”.
The big crowd, full of White House staffers, celebrities and long-time supporters made the event feel like a cross between a campaign rally and a funeral wake.
“You can tell I’m a lame duck, because no one is following my instructions,” Obama joked, at the start of his address, and followed that up with a big “thank you” to all Americans who gave him a chance to serve as US president.
In his almost-hour long speech, Obama fretted about anti-immigrant sentiment, racism and economic inequality.
“In ten days, the world will witness a hall mark of our democracy,” Obama said.
“Going forward we must uphold laws against discrimination – in hiring, in housing, in education and the criminal justice system… we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are. That’s why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans. That’s why we cannot withdraw from global fights – to expand democracy, and human rights, women’s rights, and LGBT rights – no matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem,” Obama urged to the crowd of 20,000 gathered at McCormick Place.
“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.
Obama also talked about foreign policy and how foreign powers can also be a threat to US democracy.
“So let’s be vigilant, but not afraid. ISIL will try to kill innocent people. But they cannot defeat America unless we betray our Constitution and our principles in the fight. Rivals like Russia or China cannot match our influence around the world – unless we give up what we stand for, and turn ourselves into just another big country that bullies smaller neighbours,” Obama referred to US intelligence agencies confirming that Russia hacked the US elections to Trump’s advantage.
The first African American President of the US wiped tears at times when he spoke of his wife First Lady Michelle Obama and his daughters, Malia and Sasha.
“Michelle… 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.”
“Malia and Sasha… under the strangest of circumstances you 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 burdens 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 also thanked Vice President Joe Biden and all the staff worked for him for the last eight years.
Obama ended his presidency by harking back to his 2008 campaign slogan –albeit with a twist.
“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.”