Outgoing president offers hope for nation: ‘Yes, we did’

President Obama’s farewell speech urges national unity

Greta Markey, Copy Editor

On the night of Tuesday Jan. 10, over 24 million citizens tuned in to President Barack Obama’s Farewell Address, which simultaneously assured citizens of their country’s strength and potential for growth, while also acknowledging new caveats that come hand-in-hand with the nation’s change.

Obama first reiterated that what makes the United States exceptional is not that it has never made a mistake, but that it has recognized and mended those mistakes to strengthen and to unify its citizens.

“America has been defined by forward motion,” Obama said. “By a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all and not just some.”

Speaking in front of an audience of 18,000 at Chicago’s McCormick Place the president then assured those who may have been upset by the results of the previous election that the peaceful transfer of power from one party to another is the basis of democracy and, therefore, crucial to the continuation of a successful government.

“As someone who immigrated to the United States from Germany, I felt how much he appreciates diversity and how important it is to him,” LT graduate who attended the farewell address, Almasa Duheric ’15 said. “Obama’s speech gave me hope and an optimistic outlook on the future.”

Carrying on the same theme, Obama next addressed four present threats to the democracy of the United States.

First, the president mentioned the need for economic opportunity for everyone. He stressed the idea that in order to provide education and jobs to all citizens, all Americans must contribute their fair share by paying taxes.

Next, the president addressed the problem of unity. First he noted that discrimination remains a divisive force in our nation, and then he urged a change of heart.

“We [as citizens] all have to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do,” Obama said. “That they value hard work and family just like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own.”

Obama then reminded the American people to step out of their own “bubbles” and embrace conflicting ideas. He stressed humility, curiosity and acceptance regarding different perspectives and new information.

Obama focused his final caveat on the fact that many citizens take their government for granted. He asked citizens to give the Constitution meaning, to act like America’s founding fathers and fight for their individual rights.

“America is no fragile thing,” Obama said. “But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured.”

The farewell speech was not without tears, though, as Obama dabbed his eyes when thanking his wife Michelle Obama for not only graciously accepting the role of First Lady but also for her proactive work over the past eight years.

“I teared up at probably three different parts of the speech,” Duheric said. “I think the most powerful part of the whole experience was how Obama believes that we will be able to preserve the democracy and freedom of our country, a concern I know many people had after the election of Donald Trump.”

Obama concluded his speech by thanking his family, his coworkers and his fellow citizens for restoring his faith in the nation and by reminding everyone that their work is not over.

“I don’t know if I could say I was hopeful before hearing Obama’s speech in person, but after seeing so many people united and seeing how important our country is to him, I left with hope,” she said.