President Barack Obama took the podium at the Lakeside Center at McCormick Place, in the city that birthed his political career, to deliver his final speech as President Of The United States.
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Departing from his predecessors, Barack delivered his speech not in the Oval Office as tradition would call for, but instead, he traveled back to the city of Chicago–where he declared victory over his presidential opponents in two elections. A proper homecoming, if you will.
As the first Black president to ever lead America, Barack inherited a crippled economy, a war and an obstructionist congress.
Despite the challenges, Barack is leaving behind the legacy of the Affordable Care Act, the elimination of September 11th mastermind Osama Bin Laden, 75 consecutive months of job growth, and the poise, dignity and class that was a crutch for Black America as we faced the most contentious racial climate in modern history.
“It feels good to be home,” he said triumphantly to the roar of applause. Despite his attempts to calm the crowd, the warm reception continued.
“You can tell that I’m a lame duck because nobody’s following instructions,” he joked before he began.
“My fellow americans, Michelle and I have been so touched by all the well wishes that we’ve received over the past few weeks, but tonight it’s my turn to say thanks. Whether we have seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the American people, in living rooms and in schools, in farms and factory floors, in diners and on distant military outposts, those conversations are what have kept me honest, kept me inspired, and kept me going, and everyday I have learned from you. You made me a better president, and you made me a better man.”
The speech, hopeful in tone, reinforced the values of America’s founding fathers and the promises of the constitution. He recalled pivotal moments in his presidency, from Cuba to our newfound economic stability as a country, telling the audience, “Because of you America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started.”
Obama then began a list of threats to our democracy, which includes the fiction of top-down economic growth, racism, and echo chambers of fallacy circulating on the Internet.
“For all the real progress we’ve made, we know it’s not enough,” he shifted, citing trickle down economics as a fundamentally flawed solution to our financial issues. “Stark inequality is erosive to our democratic ideal,” he added.
He continued his list, acknowledging racism as another threat to our founding ideals. “After my election there was talk of a post-racial America. Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society.”
With a stern truth he added, “Laws alone are not enough. Hearts must change.”
The final threat to democracy, he explained, was the lack of a “common baseline of facts.” POTUS cited the denial of climate change as a ‘betrayal of the essential spirit of this nation.’
Speaking to our historical advancements as a country, from the enlightenment to technology, he urged Americans to lean on the founding ideals of the country–that required reason to come to terms with new information and knowledge without immediately dismissing it.
He concluded by speaking to the safety of the nation–noting as a country we have not been attacked by a foreign entity in 8 years. But he added domestic safety alone isn’t the only threat to our ideals.
“Democracy can buckle when it gives into fear. Just as we as citizens must be vigilant against external threats, we must also guard against the weakening of the values that make us who we are.”
His final point, urged Americans to accept the responsibility of citizenship.
“Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted. All of us, regardless of party, should be throwing ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions. when voting rates are some of the lowest among advanced democracies in the world, we should be making it easier, not harder to vote.”
Again throwing agency to the American people over politicians, he said “Our constitution has no power of its own. We the people give it power.”
Continuing his messaging to empower the nation’s people, he asked Americans to lace up their boot straps, organize, or run for office.
“If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try talking to one of them in real life,” he quipped.
“Your faith in America, and in Americans will be confirmed. Mine sure has been.”
Shifting his sights to his family, he addressed the First Lady emotionally, saying,
“Michelle Levon Robinson, girl of the south side, for the past 25 years, you have not only been my wife and the mother of my children, you have been my best friend. You took on a role you didn’t ask for, and you made it your own with grace and grit and with style and good humor.”
He turned his attention to his daughters (a notably missing Malia) adding, “Of all I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud to be your dad.”
He continued, thanking Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill, his staff and his organizers.
Referring to his devoted team, he explained, because of all of you, “I leave more optimistic than when we started, because I know our work has inspired so many Americans—to believe we can make a difference.”
Speaking of steps going forward he addressed the crowd one more time, “My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you. I will be right there with you as a citizen all my remaining days.”
“I’m asking you to believe, not in my ability to bring about change, but in yours.”
And nostalgically referencing his 2004 campaign slogan:
“Yes we can. Yes we did. Yes we can.”