President Obama bid his final farewell to the nation Tuesday night, taking a valedictory opportunity to lay out his successes, identify the future threats to the country, and give thanks to his family and staff.
“My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you,” he said, opening his address from McCormick Place in Chicago. For the next 30+ minues, the current Commander-In-Chief received an array of applause, cheers and emotionally-charged silence as he deliverd his final remarks as POTUS in the city where it all began.
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Among his many accomplishments, the President highlighted the reopening of relations with Cuba, downsizing the nuclear capabilities of Iran, taking out Osama Bin Laden, the passing of marriage equality, improving the economy and bringing health insurance to almost 20 million Americans. But rather than heap on the self-praise, Obama spent more time discussing what he called “the threats to our democracy,” choosing to speak frankly about economic inequality, insulating ourselves in ideology, and the failed idea of a post-racial america.
“After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America,” he continued. “Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic.”
But the unequivocal high point of the speech was when Obama got personal. His words to First Lady Michelle Obama — and the accompanying tears — was moving enough to touch every heart in America.
“Michelle, for the past twenty-five years, you have been not only my wife and the mother of my children, you have been my best friend,” he said, wiping away a tear. Teen daughter Malia, who was seated by her mother, also wiped back tears of her own as she listened to her father gush over her mother before millions of viewers. He also spoke beautifully about his children, right-hand man and Vice-President Joe Biden and his White House staff that have helped him run the country for last eight years.
Ultimately, he ended his speech the same way he began his White House run back in 2008 — with hope.
“Yes we can. Yes we did. Yes we can. May God continue to bless the United States of America.”