In an hour-long address to a packed audience in his home state of Chicago, President Obama marked his farewell after eight years in office.
The president touted his namesake healthcare reform Obamacare, progress made with marriage equality, working to close Guantanamo, finding and killing Osama Bin Laden, as well as bettering the U.S. economy. While a reflection on his eight years in office, the speech also served as a final “thank you.”
The most frequently used words in Obama’s farewell speech
Addressing the armed forces, the president said “it has been the honor of my lifetime to be your Commander-in-Chief. And we all owe you a deep debt of gratitude.”
The speech was also personal, and punctuated with moments of raw emotion by the president. Speaking to his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, who was in the audience with one of their daughters, Malia, the president said “for the past 25 years, you have not only been my wife and mother of my children, you have been my best friend.”
“You have made me proud. And you have made the country proud,” the president said, wiping a tear from his eye.
The farewell speech served as a call to action by the outgoing U.S. president, urging Americans to keep seeking racial and economic equality and fairness.
“After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. And such a vision, however well intended, was never realistic. Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society,” the president said to applause.
“All of us have more work to do. 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,” the president said to an audience of an estimated 18,000 people.
Focusing on every American’s responsibility to uphold the democracy, the president said “protecting our way of life, that’s not just the job of our military. Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear. So, just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are.”
“It falls to each of us to be those those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences, we, in fact, all share the same proud title, the most important office in a democracy: Citizen,” the U.S. president said.
In the midst of the continued conversation over how to approach immigration in the United States, and with the incoming administration of Donald Trump, the president made a plea: “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.”
In his final address as president, Obama addressed the new incoming Trump administration. Quieting boo’s from the crowd at the mention of Trump’s name, the president said “the peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected President to the next. I committed to President-elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me.”
“It’s up to all of us to make sure our government can help us meet the many challenges we still face,” the outgoing U.S. president said.
The Tuesday night event served many “lasts,” for Obama—it was his last address as president, as well as his last flight on Air Force 1.