President Barack Obama delivering farewell speech
President Barack Obama gives farewell speech in Chicago
Obama returns to his home town to give his presidential farewell speech, which will focus on the themes of hope and change that first helped get him elected
Popular but politically humbled, President Barack Obama said goodbye to the nation Tuesday night, declaring during his farewell address that he hadn't abandoned his vision of progressive change.
But in a concession that, for now, his brand of progressive politics is stalled Washington, he admitted "for every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back."
"This is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it," Obama said from a packed hall of supporters in his adopted hometown.
"After eight years as your President, I still believe that," he went on. "And it's not just my belief. It's the beating heart of our American idea -- our bold experiment in self-government."
As he spoke before a rowdy crowd of supporters, Obama was interrupted often with screams of "I Love you Obama." When a protester holding a "Pardon All of Us" sign, chants of "four more years" drowned out the shouts.
Obama sought to corral his crowd, listing the accomplishments of the last eight years ranging from health care to marriage equality while insisting that his work isn't finished.
"The long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some," Obama said.
He recognized his successor Donald Trump, saying he was committed to a peaceful transition of power. But he warned that going forward Democrats shouldn't fall in line with their commander-in-chief.
"Democracy does not require uniformity," Obama said. "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."
Obama's speech is the capstone of a months-long farewell tour, manifested in extended magazine interviews, lengthy television sit-downs, and the White House's own efforts to document the President's waning administration. Through it all, Obama has sought to highlight the achievements of his presidency using statistics showing the country better off now than eight years ago.
Obama, who has addressed race with varying degrees of force during his time in office, used his farewell to insist Americans work harder to understand each other's struggles. After presiding over eight years that saw race relations enter a fraught new era, Obama demanded that differences be identified and reconciled.
"Brown kids will represent a larger share of America's workforce" in the years ahead, Obama proclaimed, calling for better rules that will help the children of immigrants succeed.
He warned that "laws alone won't be enough" in resolving persistent differences between Americans.
"Hearts must change," he said.