THANKS, OBAMA

Obama Calls on Americans to Persevere in Emotional Farewell Address

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama staves off tears as he delivers his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. January 10, 2017.

President Barack Obama struck a hopeful but somber tone in his farewell speech in Chicago on Tuesday night, speaking to a massive crowd in the same city that erupted in ecstatic celebration at his historic victory in 2008. While he mentioned some of his achievements, he devoted much of his farewell address to warning of the many obstacles that lie ahead for the United States. Without mentioning President-elect Donald Trump by name, Obama warned of growing economic divisions and a racial divide, as well as “a weakening of the values that make us who we are.” “That’s why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans,” he said, to great applause from the crowd. “That’s why we cannot withdraw from global fights—to expand democracy and human rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights—no matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem,” he said.

He also urged citizens to fight back against a growing tide of partisanship, lamenting the trend of people becoming “so secure in our bubbles that we start accepting only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions instead of basing our opinions on the evidence out there.” In comments that seemed inspired by the divisive rhetoric that characterized the presidential election, Obama said compromise would be impossible “without some common baseline of facts, without a willingness to admit new information and concede that your opponent is making a fair point and that science and reason matter.” Despite inevitable change and some setbacks for Democrats, Obama urged citizens not to be discouraged. “Show up. Dive in. Persevere. Sometimes you’ll win. Sometimes you’ll lose,” he said. While Obama said he was honored to have served as president, even fighting back tears during the speech, the crowd made it clear the feeling was mutual, chanting, “Four more years!” Obama responded with a big grin and said simply, “I can’t do that.”