President Obama gave his farewell address in his hometown of Chicago on Tuesday, a tradition established by America’s first president, George Washington.
“It’s good to be home,” he began. The president’s speech focused on unity, conversations with members of different political beliefs, the economy, and avoiding certain threats to American democracy.
“Our democracy won’t work without a sense that everyone has economic opportunity,” he said. The president praised job growth, higher incomes, and lower rates of poverty. He also spoke to the interests of the middle class and encouraged more growth in that area.
Obama also promised to ensure the smoothest transition into Trump’s administration as former President George W. Bush did for his.
“Democracy does not require uniformity,” he said. Obama noted that even the Founding Fathers understood the need for compromise. He did, however, urge Americans to have solidarity and work for a common good.
“Our democracy won’t work without a sense that everyone has economic opportunity,” said the president, praising jobs and the economy, as well as those insured under Obamacare. Obama repeated his desire to support a replacement for Obamacare that’s “demonstrably better” than Obamacare, referencing the House Republicans’ current fight in Congress to repeal the healthcare bill.
Obama also referenced jobs and trade, two things that resonated the loudest with Trump supporters. The president said that Americans should focus more on automation and promoted opportunities “If we don’t create opportunities for all people, the disaffection will continue.”
A threat to American democracy, he argued, was our approach to race. “Race remains a potent, and often divisive force in our society,” he said. The president spoke to both minorities and disenfranchised white Americans. He urged people of all colors to understand each others’ perspectives. The president also said that if Americans were going to serious about race, that laws against discrimination in areas like the workforce, housing, and the criminal justice system needed to be upheld.
The president also encouraged Americans, particularly young Americans, to break from their political bubbles on college campuses and on social media. He called on Americans to challenge their own beliefs.
He addressed the threats associated with “protecting our way of life,” speaking of engaging in real political discourse, rather than speaking past one another. He also spoke on things such as climate change and terrorism. “Let’s be vigilant, but not afraid,” the president said in the face of terrorist groups like ISIL.
“Our democracy is threatened whenever it’s taken for granted.” The president also urged every American, regardless of party, to fight for the American system. He spoke of easier voting paths and more transparency in government to restore trust in the voting system and the democratic system. “All of this depends on our participation,” he said, regardless of party.
The president said that the U.S. Consitution had no power on its own and that it was the American people who gave it power. Obama promoted not only more public service, but also more conversations with others of different political beliefs.
Obama proceeded to call out his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama. “You’ve made me proud. You’ve made the country proud,” he praised.
Then his daughters, First Daughters Sasha and Malia. “You wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. Of all that I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud to be your dad.”
Finally, his vice president, Joe Biden. “To Joe Biden, the scrappy kid from Scranton who became Delaware’s favorite son: you were the first choice I made as a nominee, and the best. Not just because you have been a great Vice President, but because in the bargain, I gained a brother.”
He also thanked his supporters and praised their future endeavors.
He ended his speech saying “Yes We Can. Yes We Did. Yes We Can.”
You can read the full transcript here.