Outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday night at Chicago, delivered emotional final
speech to equally emotional, tearful Americans, who trooped out to honour him for the last time as president.
A correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), who
monitored the speech, reports that Obama, in his 50-minute
speech, was full of “thank you” to Americans and raised some
concerns and hopes on the future of the country.
“My fellow Americans, Michelle and I have been so touched by
all the well-wishes we’ve received over the past few weeks. But
tonight it’s my turn to say thanks.
“Whether we’ve seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, my
conversations with you, the American people – in living rooms
and schools; at farms and on factory floors; at diners and on
distant outposts – are what have kept me honest, kept me
inspired, and kept me going.
“Every day, I learned from you. You made me a better
President, and you made me a better man,” he said.
The two-term president recalled his humble beginning on the
streets of Chicago and how, through faith and his message of
hope, he won a historic election to become America’s
president, challenging ordinary Americans to believe in hope.
“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
“It was in neighbourhoods not far from here where I began
working with church groups in the shadows of closed steel
“It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith,
and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle
“This is where I learned that change only happens when
ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together
to demand it.
“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,” he said.
The outgoing president also used the speech to highlight his
achievements in office, noting the multiple challenges
confronting the country when he took over eight years ago.
He particularly noted the reverse of a great recession, a new
chapter with Cuba, shutting down Iran’s nuclear weapons
programme, killing Osama bin Laden, the Affordable HealthCare
Act, among others.
The former Illinois senator also exuded pride that no terrorist
organisation had successfully planned and executed any
attacks on America’s soil in his eight years as president.
Obama, however, said the thrust of his speech was to focus on
the state of the America’s democracy, pointing out the threat
posed by economic inequality and that “stark inequality is also
corrosive to our democratic principles”.
He also noted the issue of racism saying that it was still
profound even in his presidency.
“After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America.
Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic. For
race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society.
“I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better
than they were 10, or 20, or 30 years ago; you can see it not
just in statistics, but in the attitudes of young Americans across
the political spectrum”.
He added “that when minority groups voice discontent, they’re
not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political
“That when they wage peaceful protest, they’re not demanding
special treatment, but the equal treatment our Founders
The president noted politics as another threat to the U.S.
democracy and the unequal justice system, pointing out the
sacred ties of America.
“We weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to
become so corrosive that people of good character are turned
off from public service; so coarse with rancour that Americans
with whom we disagree are not just misguided, but somehow
“We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more
American than others; when we write off the whole system as
inevitably corrupt, and blame the leaders we elect without
examining our own role in electing them.”
Obama became tearful as he poured accolades on his wife,
Michelle, who elicited standing ovation, his daughters, Malia and
Sasha, and two-term Vice-President Joe Biden and wife, Jill.
The outgoing president, who hands over to incoming President
Donald Trump on Jan. 20, pledged peaceful and smooth
transition to the incoming administration.
While regretting that his message of hope eight years ago was
giving way to fear, he, however, challenged Americans to be
optimistic, saying he was leaving the stage more optimistic of
the future of America.
“My fellow Americans, it has been the honour of my life to
serve you. I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as
a citizen, for all my days that remain.
“For now, whether you’re young or young at heart, I do have
one final question for you as your President, the same thing I
asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago.
“I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about
change but in yours.
“I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our
founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and
abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders
and those who marched for justice.
“That creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign
battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of
every American whose story is not yet written:
“Yes We Can. Yes We Did. Yes We Can,” Obama, who was the
first black in U.S. history to be elected president and who still
maintains an all-time high personality rating, concluded.
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