Barack Obama’s farewell speech: will he be the first and last black president?

President Obama delivers his farewell speech.

President Obama delivers his farewell speech.

 We have been spoilt having Obama as President for the last 8 years.  We may not realise it now but soon enough we shall.  For people of colour especially this was a watershed something we many of us thought we would never really see in our life time.  It was one of those things that only the movies made tangible with films.  However Obama made it a reality and he has proved to be perhaps one of the most dignified Presidents of all time.
We look at his farewell speech as reported by The Telegraph and say farewell to the man that broke all the rules and became the most powerful man on the planet.
  • Obama declares faith in people to bring about change
  • President urges Americans to stand up for US values
  • Tears shed as Obama pays tribute to wife Michelle and daughters
  • Barack Obama’s farewell speech in full

Barack Obama rose to power as the country’s first African American president with message of hope and boundless optimism for the future.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible…who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” he told crowds in Chicago in 2008 after winning the election.

In all the years since he never wavered from his mission to help foster in America what he once called the “renewal of morality”.

Unlike Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and so many others before him, this is a president unblemished by scandal.

The president acted presidential even behind closed doors: even his closest aides fail to recall moments when Mr Obama gave way to roiling anger. Emotions have rarely muddled the academic rigor of his mind.

White House staffers have nicknamed him the ‘Colombo president’, after the famous television detective who always catches the killer with his questions.

Watch | Barack Obama: In ten days, the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy

President Barrack and First Lady Michele Obama

President Barrack and First Lady Michele Obama


So inquisitive is Mr Obama, one senior aide said, that he has changed the traditional length of memos written for a sitting president. “A science brief was placed on his desk. It had been kept to two pages as is usual,” the aide said. “It came back the next day with three words written by the president in the top right hand corner: ‘where’s the rest?'”

It is because of this that his speech on Tuesday night was all the more remarkable: after eight years of preaching change and hope, Mr Obama ended his leadership with an urgent and fearful warning about the state of American democracy.

It was a thinly veiled slight to the divisive rhetoric of Donald Trump’s election campaign, which included attacks on Muslims, the disabled, women and immigrants.

“If we don’t create opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come,” Mr Obama said.

Watch | Barack Obama: You were the change


Mr Obama has been criticised by African American communities for failing to address race issues in the country during his time in office.

But in these final moments, he warned of racism as a poison to democracy. He called on African Americans and other minorities to tie their ” own struggles for justice” to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face – including the middle-aged white man who “may seem like he’s got all the advantages, but who’s seen his world upended by economic, cultural, and technological change”.

And he called on white Americans to acknowledge that “the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn’t suddenly vanish in the ‘60s”.

Barack Obama: The effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn’t suddenly vanish in the ‘60sWatch | Barack Obama: The effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn’t suddenly vanish in the ‘60s


Mr Obama made only passing reference to the next president. 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.”

Mr Obama may have done all he could to help the peaceful transition of power to the president-elect, but he became emotional as he prepared to pass the baton of the country he loved to a man whom he does not trust.

He became urgent, a tear in his eye, as he talked of needing to “guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are”.

Brushing away tears with a handkerchief, Mr 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 humour” and for making the White House “a place that belongs to everybody.”


Watch | Obama wipes away tears as he pays tribute to Michelle and daughters


As he prepared to step away from the stage one final time he seemed to be passing on the stewardship of America not to Mr Trump, but to the nation’s people.

“It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy,” he said. “Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title:  Citizen.”

“Ultimately, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you.”

The president concluded by saying he remained hopeful about the work that a younger generation would do. “Yes we can,” he said. “Yes we did.”



Barack Obama: I am asking you to believe

Barack Obama posted on Twitter shortly after finishing his speech: “Thank you for everything. My last ask is the same as my first. I’m asking you to believe—not in my ability to create change, but in yours.”

President Barrack Obama with his family

President Barrack Obama with his family



The tech wizards that brought Obama to fame

The Telegraph’s Ruth Sherlock writes:

Meet the men behind the wizardly digital strategy that fueled Barack Obama’s rise to the presidency:

Sam Falkoff said he was the recipient of the first cheque that the Obama campaign wrote. A senior systems engineer he helped set up the technology that helped finesse the campaign’s renowned ability get out the vote.  Mr Falkoff recalled the games they would play at the beginning: “I named all our internet servers after the Boston Red Socks baseball players,” he said.

Kevin Malover was the chief technology officer in the early campaign days in 2007: “At the time Barack Obama was a long shot with a funny name and no money,” he said. “But I was attracted by his respectful rhetoric. Instead of engaging in the politics of tearing things down he painted a bright future.” “I am going to miss the texture of his speeches and well thought out responses that he gives to problems. Now we are going to have a president who thinks he can sum up the complexity of the Syrian war in 180 characters of a Tweet.”

Jim Boyce, a technology consultant in Mr Obama’s first campaign said: “After everything it’s bitter sweet to see this end on these terms, with Trump in the White House.”


Michelle: So proud all that we’ve accomplished together

First Lady Michele Obama gives her final speech.

First Lady Michele Obama gives her final speech.


‘We are his family’

The crowds are streaming out of the hall now. Many have tears in their eyes. The reality of Barack Obama leaving the White House is starting to sink in, writesRuth Sherlock.

He made Chicago his home town, and so, despite the cavernous size of the convention centre, the evening has an intimate feel.

So many of the people I have spoken to here tonight met Mr Obama at some point during his career – when he was a community organiser in the bedraggled projects of South Chicago, or when he was their senator and political rising star.

Tina and Tom Finch, have a photograph on their phone of a young Mr Obama holding their child – Giselle – in his arms.

“I was here in this very convention centre listening to the speech when he was he was elected in 2008,” Mr Finch said. “Tonight he brought it home again.

“You come home and you tell your family about what you have done. And that’s what he did tonight. We are his family,” he said.


One mention of Trump

The whole speech addressed an America that was divided and has experienced an election full of “corrosive political dialogue.” Yet, Mr Obama refrained from attacking his successor. Indeed, he mentioned him only once by name – an omission which spoke volumes.


The Boss plays

The soundtrack is Bruce Springsteen as Michelle and Malia Obama take to the stage along with Joe Biden and his wife.

But one question many people are asking: where’s Sasha Obama?


‘Yes we can, yes we did’

‘I won’t stop” serving America, he says. Appealing to Americans to bring about change,  he concludes: “Yes we can, yes we did, yes we can.”



There are a lot of tears in the arena

Michelle comforts Malia Obama


Ruth Sherlock reports

In his final address to the nation, Barack Obama might have been expected to use the time to remind America of his presidential successes, and trying to help shape how historians will come to define his legacy. But instead, tonight’s speech is an extraordinary appeal to Americans to recognise and work to resolve matters that Mr Obama sees an existential threat to the country’s democracy.

It is a less than subtle warning to Donald Trump, and an admonition of the rhetoric used by his successor on the campaign trail. Divisions, he said, are a threat to American freedom, and then singled out the very rhetoric that lay at the core of Mr Trump’s election pitch as a propagator of such animosity: the framing of “every economic problem”, he said, as a competition between a white working class and an “undeserving minority”.

And failing to invest in immigration, he said, will only imperil America more.  Instead of attacking one another, he urged Americans to look for the “reservoir of goodness” in one another and keep their respect for the “scope of freedom”, and the “rule of law”.


On Joe Biden…

“You were the first decision I made as a nominee and you were my best,” he says. He says Joe is like a brother to him.


And now on to his kids

“You have mad made me proud and you have made the country proud,” he tells his wife.

Paying tribute to his daughters, he says they are kind and full compassion. Of everything he has done, “I am most proud to be your dad.”


Praising Michelle

Huge applause as he pays tribute to his wife, Michelle. She really is loved here.

“You took on a role you didn’t ask for and you made it your own.”


‘We are all citizens’

“For all our outward differences, we all share the same title: citizen… Our democracy needs you.”

“If you’re tired of arguing with people on the internet, try talking to them in real life.” If something needs fixing, he says, do something about it. If you’re disappointed in elected officials, try and run for office yourself.


Defending democracy

“Our democracy is threatened when we take it for granted,” he says, saying they must make it easier, not harder to vote.

All of this depends on “our responsibility of citizenship.”

Talking of the constitution, he says “we the people give it meaning”. He says nobody should be alienated and laments the “corrosive political dialogue”. Ties are weakened when some people are defined as more American than others.


‘We must be vigilant’

Part of defending America requires defending rights at home, he says.

“Let’s be vigilant but not afraid.”


‘We must protect our values’

“It has been the honour of my lifetime to be your commander in chief”, he says, paying tribute to the military.

“We must guard against the weakening of the values that make us who we are,” he says, explaining why he wanted to close Gitmo, end torture and end the discrimination against Muslims.


Climate change, rule of law and terrorism

Calling for more to be done to tackle climate change, he says denying the problems “betrays future generations”.

He goes on to say the rule of law is being challenged by fanatics and autocrats – those who “fear change”. Hailing the military and intelligence community, he trumpets the fact there has been no foreign terror attack in the US in the past 8 years.


Ruth Sherlock reports

This is exactly the soaring oratory that defines Barack Obama. His eloquent, powerful, hopeful rhetoric helped him as a young senator to vault into the position of commander-in-chief. In these eight years Americans have turned to his words for comfort in difficult times. After terror attacks and mass shootings, he has repeatedly taken to the airwaves to call for a message of unity and hope. He holds himself in a manner that is, utterly presidential. It is for this skill and this use of language that many Americans will remember him.


Social bubbles

It’s easy to stay in our social bubble, he says. “We become so secure in our bubbles, that we start only accepting information, whether it’s true or not, that fits our opinions.”


‘We all have to try harder’

He reminds people the Irish and Italians faced the same problems in the past. “But they embraced this nation’s creed and this nation was strengthened….We allhave to try harder.”


On racial inequality

“Race remains a potent and divisive force in our society,” he says. Admitting it has improved, he says more work needs to be done.

“If we’re going to be serious, we need to uphold laws against discrimination…But hearts must change…”

Quoting Atticus Finch, he says minorities must also pay attention to the needs of the privileged white guy, while the complaints of minorities must also be listened to.


Income inequality

Looking at income inequality, he says too many people have been left behind. “Our trade should be fair, not just free,” he says, before defending fair trade.

“We need a new social compact,” he says, going on to say the lives of workers must be improved.


Unifying call

He is calling for solidarity as America moves forward, before ticking off more achievements under his time in office. “We need economic opportunity” and he notes that poverty is falling again.  Unemployment rate is near a 10-year low.

“For all the real progress we’ve made, we know it’s not enough.”


Only if democracy works

On Trump, he says he promised a smooth transition. “It’s up to all of us…our potential will only be realised if our democracy works. If our politics reflects the decency of our people. Only if all of us restore the sense of common purpose, that we badly need right now.”


Ticking off his achievements

Looking back at his time, he notes the Cuban deal, the Iran deal, the killing of Bin Laden, and marriage equality.

“You were the change,” he says. “America is a stronger place than when we started.”


‘The capacity to change’

America is exceptional because the people have shown “the capacity to change”. He says America has progressed by learning to “embrace all, not just some”.


‘Our unalienable rights’

Obama is invoking the Declaration of Independence’s teachings about equality and unalienable rights, and its challenge to Americans to take it upon themselves to defend those rights and improve America’s democracy.

“This is the great gift our Founders gave us. The freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat, toil, and imagination – and the imperative to strive together as well, to achieve a greater good.”


‘Our bold experiment’

During his time in Chicago, Obama says he witnessed “the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss.” He argues change is only possible “when ordinary people get involved” and join forces to demand progress.

“After eight years as your president, I still believe that. And it’s not just my belief. It’s the beating heart of our American idea – our bold experiment in self-government.”


Thank you

The President begins by thanking the American people – they have “kept him honest, inspired and kept him going”. He then looks back at when he first came to Chicago.

“I first came to Chicago when I was in my early twenties, still trying to figure out who I was; still searching for a purpose to my life,” “It was in neighbourhoods not far from here where I began working with church groups in the shadows of closed steel mills. It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss.”


Shhh people

Obama tries to quieten the crowd…but it’s difficult, they love him.

“You can tell I’m a lame duck, because no one is following instructions..”


And here he comes…

…to a predictably very warm welcome.


National anthem time

Barack Obama is set to start his address – but first, the national anthem.


Supporters are looking for one last dose of ‘hope’

This is how Janaya Shaw, 39, a teacher at a Chicago college feels about tonight, writes Ruth Sherlock.

“This is a history defining moment. I am sad to see him go. I just wish that in his speech tonight he can give us some more hope, some more positive thoughts that can help us through the next years without him.

“This is the first incoming president that makes me wonder about the state of our country.  I cried like a baby when Obama won in 2008.

“My grandmother always said when I was small that she wished America could have an African American president. She died just a few years before it happened, so I always think of her when I think of him.”


A special moment for families

Elizabeth Evan’s two children were six and eight years of age when Barack Obama won the presidential election in 2008, writes Ruth Sherlock at McCormick Place in Chicago.

“I brought them then to Obama’s election party the night of the Illinois primary and now we are here again as a family to see him say goodbye.”

For Mrs Evans and Ben and Natalie, her son and daughter, Mr Obama will go down in history as one of America’s great leaders – in particular for the way he helped portray America to the rest of the world.

“He didn’t present us as a forceful democracy exporter, but as a nation who works alongside the other leading countries of the world,” Mrs Evans said.

Mrs Evans, Ben and Natalie CREDIT: RUTH SHERLOCK

Natalie, who is now in high school, said Mr Obama also worked on the issues that young people care about – women’s rights, education and gay rights.

Ben, who is now studying physics at university said that his legacy will in large part depend on how many of his policies survive Donald Trump’s first 100 days.


The scene outside

Meanwhile, a huge line of people waited patiently to get inside the venue.

The queue outside the venue CREDIT: REUTERS
A Chicago shop has a sign in the window reading thank you to U.S. President Barack Obama CREDIT:REUTERS


The scene inside

Eddie Vedder, of Pearl Jam, is performing inside McCormick Place, Chicago’s main convention centre, as the crowd waits the speech in about 20 minutes.

Singer Eddie Vedder performs before President Barack Obama speaks at McCormick Place CREDIT: AP


A moment for nostalgia

First lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, his wife, Jill Biden, and many current and former White House staff members and campaign workers were expected to attend the speech tonight.

“The president is not one to be overly sentimental, but given the circumstances, I think it would be unrealistic to expect anybody to not feel some nostalgia for this moment,” his spokesman, Josh Earnest told reporters.

Even the final trip on the presidential aircraft was a moment tinged with wistfulness. It was Obama’s 445th trip on the presidential aircraft, a perk he has said he will miss when he leaves office. All told, he will have spent more than 2,800 hours or 116 days on the plane during his presidency, Mr Earnest said.


‘A bitter sweet night’

Marina Jenkins waited in the queue to the convention halls with friends who have all worked with Barack Obama since 2008, and some of whom are in his administration, writes Ruth Sherlock in Chicago.

 “This is a bitter sweet night. A lot of us were with Obama in 2007. Now we are all uniting again together for one last time.

“I almost started crying this morning thinking about what’s to come with Donald Trump. But then I got here and met up with all the people who have worked so hard to make the president’s vision a reality. A lot of these people are still staying in community activism, and I know they will not stop their work just because he is out of office.”


Most memorable moments


Watch | People share most memorable moments of Obama presidency



This speech is different

No stranger to high-stakes speeches, Mr Obama rose to national prominence on the power of his oratory. But this speech is different, White House officials have told AP.

Determined not to simply recite a history of the last eight years, Mr Obama directed his team to craft an address that would feel “bigger than politics” and speak to all Americans – including those who voted for Mr Trump.

His chief speechwriter, Cody Keenan, started writing it last month while Obama was vacationing in Hawaii, handing him the first draft on the flight home. By late Monday Mr Obama was immersed in a fourth draft, with Keenan expected to stay at the White House all night to help perfect Mr Obama’s final message.

The Telegraph.

Follow us @Global News Ink


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