Obama plans farewell speech


Red Eye Chicago - - Front Page - —CHRISTI PAR­SONS, LOS AN­GE­LES TIMES EPA

His last va­ca­tion be­hind him, Pres­i­dent Obama is en­ter­ing the clos­ing stretch of his pres­i­dency, an eleventh-hour push to tie up loose ends and put fin­ish­ing touches on his legacy be­fore hand­ing the reins to Pres­i­den­t­elect Donald Trump.

Obama re­turned to Washington mid­day Mon­day from Hawaii with less than three weeks left. His fi­nal days will largely be con­sumed by a bid to pro­tect his en­dan­gered health care law, a ma­jor farewell speech and the on­go­ing han­dover of power to Trump.

In an email to sup­port­ers Mon­day, Obama said his vale­dic­tory speech on Jan. 10 fol­lows a tra­di­tion set in 1796 when the first pres­i­dent, Ge­orge Washington, spoke to the Amer­i­can peo­ple for the last time in of­fice.

“I’m think­ing about [the re­marks] as a chance to say thank you for this amaz­ing jour­ney, to cel­e­brate the ways you’ve changed this coun­try for the bet­ter these past eight years, and to of­fer some thoughts on where we all go from here,” Obama said.

Obama’s chief speech­writer, Cody Keenan, trav­eled with Obama to Hawaii and spent much of the trip work­ing on the speech. The Chicago trip will likely be Obama’s last out­side Washington as pres­i­dent.

Obama is also plan­ning last-minute com­mu­ta­tions and par­dons, White House of­fi­cials said. Though prom­i­nent of­fend­ers like Ed­ward Snow­den and Rod Blago­je­vich are also ask­ing for le­niency, Obama’s fi­nal acts of clemency are ex­pected to re­main fo­cused on drug of­fend­ers whose plight Obama tried but failed to ad­dress through crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form.

Af­ter tak­ing of­fice eight years ago, Obama and his aides were ef­fu­sive in their praise for how Obama’s pre­de­ces­sor, Ge­orge W. Bush, helped his team take over the mas­sive fed­eral bu­reau­cracy. Obama has vowed to pass on the fa­vor to Trump. But the tran­si­tion hasn’t been with­out in­ci­dent.

The two teams have clashed over the Trump team’s re­quests for in­for­ma­tion Obama aides fear could be used to elim­i­nate gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees who worked on Obama pri­or­i­ties like cli­mate change and mi­nor­ity rights over­seas.

Trump’s team, mean­while, has been frus­trated by Obama’s at­tempts to box Trump in with part­ing moves to block ocean drilling, de­clare new mon­u­ments and fur­ther empty out the Guan­tanamo Bay pri­son.

While on his an­nual va­ca­tion in Oahu, Obama as­serted him­self force­fully on two for­eign pol­icy is­sues that put him in direct con­flict with Trump. Obama di­rected the U.S. to defy tra­di­tion by al­low­ing a U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion crit­i­ciz­ing Is­rael on set­tle­ments to pass, then slapped Rus­sia with sweep­ing penal­ties over U.S. al­le­ga­tions of hack­ing.

The fi­nal days are Obama’s last chance to de­fine his pres­i­dency be­fore he loses the bully pul­pit and cedes his legacy to his­to­ri­ans. For Obama, help­ing Amer­i­cans un­der­stand how his two terms have re­shaped Amer­i­can life is even more crit­i­cal amid con­cerns that Trump may undo much of what he ac­com­plished, in­clud­ing the health care law.

As Trump and Repub­li­cans vow to gut the Af­ford­able Care Act, Democrats are work­ing to de­vise a strat­egy to pro­tect the law by ex­ploit­ing GOP di­vi­sions about how to re­place it. To that end, Obama will travel Wednesday to the Capi­tol to meet with House and Sen­ate Democrats, likely his last meet­ing with his party’s law­mak­ers as pres­i­dent.

Obama must also pre­pare to be­come a pri­vate cit­i­zen for the first time in two decades. An of­fice of the former pres­i­dent must be set up, and Obama’s fam­ily will be mak­ing ar­range­ments to move into a rental home in North­west Washington, D.C., where they plan to stay un­til youngest daugh­ter Sasha fin­ishes high school.

Farewell ad­dress

Ten days be­fore Trump takes of­fice, Obama will say good­bye from the same city that launched his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

The pres­i­den­tial farewell will take place on the evening of Jan. 10 at McCormick Place. Doors will open at 5 p.m. for the speech. Tick­ets are free, and one ticket per per­son will be avail­able on a first-come, first-serve ba­sis.

De­tails on the tim­ing of the ticket give­away Satur­day will be an­nounced in the com­ing days at white­house.gov/farewell/info.

The sched­uled farewell ad­dress will bring Obama’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer as a state sen­a­tor in Illi­nois, U.S. sen­a­tor and pres­i­dent full cir­cle. When he won the White House in 2008, Chicago hosted a vic­tory rally in Grant Park.

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