President gives an emotional farewell
President Barack Obama delivered a nostalgic and hopeful farewell address Tuesday, but urged both the divided country he led for eight years and his successor not to shrink from challenges.
CHICAGO — President Barack Obama bid farewell to the nation on Tuesday in an emotional speech that sought to comfort a country on edge over rapid economic changes, persistent security threats and the election of Donald Trump.
Forceful at times and tearful at others, Obama’s valedictory speech in his hometown of Chicago was a public meditation on the many trials the U.S. faces as Obama takes his exit. For the challenges that are new, Obama offered his vision for how to surmount them, and for the persistent problems he was unable to overcome, he offered optimism that others, eventually, will.
“Yes, our progress has been uneven,” Obama told a crowd of some 18,000. “The work of democracy has always been hard, contentious and sometimes bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back.”
Yet Obama argued his faith in America had only been strengthened by what he’s witnessed the past eight years, and he declared: “The future should be ours.”
Brushing away tears with a handkerchief, Obama paid tribute to the sacrifices made by his wife — and by his daughters, who were young girls when they entered the big white home on Pennsylvania Avenue and leave as young women.
He praised first lady Michelle Obama for taking on her role “with grace and grit and style and good humor.”
Even as Obama said farewell — in a televised speech of just under an hour — the anxiety felt by many Americans about the future was palpable. The political world was reeling from new revelations about an unsubstantiated report that Russia had compromising personal and financial information about Trump.
When he noted he would soon be replaced by the Republican, his crowd began to boo.
“No, no, no, no, no,” Obama said. One of the nation’s great strengths, he said, “is the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next.”
Earlier, as the crowd of thousands chanted, “Four more years,” he simply smiled and said, “I can’t do that.”
Still, Obama offered what seemed like a point-by-point rebuttal of Trump’s vision for America.
He pushed back on the isolationist sentiments inherent in Trump’s trade policies. He decried discrimination against Muslim Americans and lamented politicians who question climate change. And he warned about the pernicious threat to U.S. democracy posed by fake “news.”
President Barack Obama acknowledges the crowd with first lady Michelle Obama, daughter Malia, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden after his farewell address in Chicago on Tuesday.