Obama bids farewell af­ter last pres­i­den­tial speech

Obama calls on coun­try to stand up for val­ues in part­ing prod at Trump

China Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama waves on stage with first lady Michelle Obama, daugh­ter Malia, Vice-Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den and his wife, Jill Bi­den, af­ter his farewell ad­dress at McCormick Place in Chicago on Tues­day.

With a fi­nal call of his cam­paign mantra “Yes We Can”, Pres­i­dent Ba rack O ba ma urged the United States to stand up for its val­ues and re­ject dis­crim­i­na­tion as the coun­try tran­si­tions to the pres­i­dency of Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump.

In an emo­tional speech in which he thanked his fam­ily and de­clared his time as pres­i­dent the honor of his life, Obama gen­tly prod­ded the pub­lic to em­brace his vi­sion of progress while re­pu­di­at­ing some of the poli­cies that Trump pro­moted dur­ing his cam­paign for the White House.

“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,” Obama told a crowd of 18,000 in his home­town of Chicago, where he cel­e­brated his elec­tion in 2008 as the coun­try’s first black pres­i­dent.

Trump, who takes of­fice on Jan 20, pro­posed tem­po­rar­ily ban­ning Mus­lims from en­ter­ing the coun­try, build­ing a wall on the bor­der with Mex­ico, up­end­ing a global deal to fight cli­mate change and dis­man­tling Obama’s health­care re­form law.

Obama made clear his op­po­si­tion to those po­si­tions dur­ing fiery cam­paign speeches for 2016 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton, but has struck a more con­cil­ia­tory tone with Trump since the elec­tion.

In his speech, he made clear his po­si­tions had not changed and he said his ef­forts to end the use of tor­ture and close the US prison in Guan­tanamo Bay were part of a broader move to up­hold US val­ues.

“That’s why I re­ject dis­crim­i­na­tion against Mus­lim Amer­i­cans,” he said in a clear ref­er­ence to Trump.

He said bold ac­tion was needed to fight global warm­ing and said “science and rea­son” mat­tered.

“If any­one can put to­gether a plan that is demon­stra­bly bet­ter than the im­prove­ments we’ve made to our health­care sys­tem, that cov­ers as many peo­ple at less cost, I will pub­licly sup­port it,” he said in an­other jab at his suc­ces­sor.

Trump has urged the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Congress to re­peal the law right away.

Obama, who came to of­fice amid high ex­pec­ta­tions that hi se­lec­tion would heal his­toric racial di­vides, ac­knowl­edged that was an im­pos­si­ble goal.

“Af­ter my elec­tion, there was talk of a post-racial Amer­ica,” he said. “Such a vi­sion, how­ever well-in­tended, was never re­al­is­tic. Race re­mains a po­tent and of­ten di­vi­sive force in our so­ci­ety.”

How­ever, Obama said he re­mained hope­ful about the work that a younger gen­er­a­tion would do. “Yes we can,” he said. “Yes we did.”

In an in­di­rect ref­er­ence to the po­lit­i­cal work the Demo­cratic Party will have to do to re­cover af­ter Clin­ton’s loss, Obama urged racial mi­nori­ties to seek jus­tice not only for them­selves but also for “the mid­dle-aged white man who from the out­side may seem like he’s got ad­van­tages, but who’s seen his world up­ended by eco­nomic, cul­tural and tech­no­log­i­cal change.”

Trump won his elec­tion in part by ap­peal­ing to work­ing­class white men.

First lady Michelle Obama, Vice-Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den, his wife Jill Bi­den, and many cur­rent and for­mer White House staff mem­bers and cam­paign work­ers at­tended the speech.

Obama wiped his eyes as he ad­dressed his wife and thanked his run­ning mate.

The Chicago visit is Obama’s last sched­uled trip as pres­i­dent, and even the fi­nal flight on the pres­i­den­tial air­craft was tinged with wist­ful­ness.

It was the pres­i­dent’s 445th “mis­sion” on Air Force One, a perk he has said he will miss when he leaves of­fice.

All told, Obama will have spent more than 2,800 hours or 116 days on the plane dur­ing his pres­i­dency.

Obama plans to re­main in Wash­ing­ton for the next two years while his younger daugh­ter, Sasha, fin­ishes high school. Sasha, who has an exam on Wednesday, did not at­tend the speech but her older sis­ter Malia was there.

PABLO MARTINEZ MON­SI­VAIS/ AP

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