President Barack Obama delivered his farewell address to the nation on Jan. 10, acknowledging both the achievements and shortfalls of his presidency, which culminated in a call for unity, going forward, despite recent political discord throughout the nation.
“Democracy does not require uniformity,” President Obama stated. “Our founders quarreled and compromised, and expected us to do the same. But, they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity — the idea that, for all our outward differences, we are all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.”
The president reminded Americans to remain vigilant when it comes to holding the nation’s leaders accountable, and called on citizens to exercise their right to protect the country’s values.
“Protecting our way of life, that’s not just the job of our military,” he said. “Democracy can buckle when it gives into fear. 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 also acknowledged that, although race relations have improved during his time in office, there is still more work to be done.
“I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were 10, or 20, or 30 years ago, no matter what some folks say,” he stated. “You can see it not just in statistics. You see it in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum. But we’re not where we need to be. And all of us have more work to do.”
The key to continuing to improve race relations in this country will hinge upon Americans’ ability to understand each others’ struggles, said Obama.
“For white Americans, it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn’t suddenly vanish in the ’60s; that when minority groups voice discontent, they’re not just engaging in reverse racism, or practicing political correctness; when they wage peaceful protest, they’re not demanding special treatment, but the equal treatment that our founders promised,” he stated.
In addition, “For blacks and other minority groups, that means tying our own very real struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face,” the president said. “Not only the refugee, or the immigrant, or the rural poor, or the transgender American, but also the middle-aged white guy who, from the outside may seem like he’s got all the advantages, but has seen his world upended by economic, and cultural, and technological change. We have to pay attention, and listen.”
Obama delivered the address in his hometown of Chicago, the city in which he began his political career.
Thousands turned out to hear the president’s final speech, and, as he neared the end of his address, his voice broke with emotion as he acknowledged the contributions of his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, and the accomplishments of their two daughters, Malia and Sasha.
“Michelle LaVaughn Robinson of the South Side… for the past 25 years you have not only been my wife and mother of my children, you have been my best friend,” the president said. “You took on a role you didn’t ask for, and made it your own with grace, and grit, and style, and good humor. You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody.”
“Malia and Sasha… under the strangest of circumstances you have become two amazing young women,” he added. “You are smart, and you are beautiful. But, more importantly, you are kind, and you are thoughtful, and you are full of passion. Of all that I have done in my life, I am most proud to be your dad.”
The president closed his speech by calling for progress and change; it was a moment that was reminiscent of his initial run in 2008.
“My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you,” he stated. “I won’t stop. In fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my remaining days. But, for now, whether you are young, or whether you’re young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your president — the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago. I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change — but in yours.”
“I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice…,” the president said. “Yes, we can. Yes, we did. Yes, we can.”
Visit https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/10/remarks-president-farewell-address to view the president’s full address; visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paHYyQHmTus to view the full video of his speech, or click on the image below.