OBAMA’S LAST SPEECH

Yes We Can re­ject dis­crim­i­na­tion, he says in last pres­i­den­tial speech

The Star Late Edition - - FRONT PAGE -

WITH a fi­nal call of his cam­paign mantra “Yes We Can”, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama urged Amer­i­cans on Tues­day to stand up for US 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 hon­our 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 White House cam­paign.

“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 first black pres­i­dent of the US.

Trump, who takes of­fice on Jan­uary 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.

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

“That’s why I re­ject dis­crim­ina- tion against Mus­lim Amer­i­cans,” he said in a clear ref­er­ence to Trump that drew ap­plause.

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 prod to his suc­ces­sor.

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

Obama, who came to of­fice amid high ex­pec­ta­tions that his elec­tion would heal his­toric racial di­vides, ac­knowl­edged that 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 work­ing-class 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. They all ap­peared to­gether on stage af­ter the ad­dress.

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, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

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, 15, fin­ishes high school. Sasha, who had an exam yes­ter­day, did not at­tend the speech, but her sis­ter, Malia, 18, did.

The pres­i­dent has in­di­cated he wants to give Trump the same space that his pre­de­ces­sor, Repub­li­can Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush, gave him af­ter leav­ing of­fice by not main­tain­ing a high public pro­file.

PIC­TURE: EPA

US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama wipes a tear from his eye while de­liv­er­ing his farewell ad­dress to the Amer­i­can peo­ple at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illi­nois, US. Obama’s eight-year term as US pres­i­dent ends on Jan­uary 20 when Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump takes the oath of of­fice.

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