Outgoing US President, Barack Obama, on Tuesday night at Chicago, delivered an emotional final speech to an equally emotional, tearful Americans, who trooped out to honour him for the last time as president.
A correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria 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.
He said: “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.”
The two-term president, who wept while delivering the speech, 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.
He said: “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 my life.
“It was in neighbourhoods not far from here where I began working with church groups in the shadows of closed steel mills.
“It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss.
“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.”
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.
Obama 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 it was still profound even in his presidency.
He said: “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.
“That when minority groups voice discontent, they’re not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness.
“That when they wage peaceful protest, they’re not demanding special treatment, but the equal treatment our Founders promised.”
The President noted politics as another threat to the US democracy and the unequal justice system, pointing out the sacred ties of America.
He said: “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 malevolent.
“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 January 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.
He said: “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 was the first black in US history to be elected president and still maintains an all-time high personality rating.
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