While addressing the American public in his farewell speech in Chicago, the outgoing President Barack Obama said that Democracy needs you.
He told thousands of supporters that America is “by almost every measure a stronger place” than it was eight years ago when he took office, but he also warned that “democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.”
He urged all the Americans to ponder about things from each other’s perspective, saying that “we have to pay attention and listen.”
Obama, the first black president, now 55, won presidency eight years ago with his message of hope and change. His successor, Donald Trump has vowed to reverse some of the signature Obama policies.
Mr. Obama brushed aside squawky chants of “four more years” by the crowd, saying that “I can’t do that” with a smile. The constitution restricts the President to a maximum of two terms only.
When the prospect of Mr. Trump replacing him was booed by the crowd, Obama struck an upbeat tone and said that “No, no, no, no, no,” the peaceful transfer of power was a “hallmark” of American democracy.
He highlighted three threats to the American democracy – racial divisions, economic inequalities, and retreat of different segments of the society into “bubbles,” where opinions lack a base of “some common baseline of facts.” The crowd laughed and applauded when he said, “if you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try to talk with one in real life.”
He made a final request to the Americans as President in his closing remarks:
“I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.”
Mr. Obama declared his 2008 election victory in Chicago and returned here to deliver his farewell speech. He had said earlier that he chose Chicago instead of White House for the final speech because that’s where everything started for him and the First Lady Michelle Obama. He said that it was in Chicago where as a young man he was still searching for purpose in life, he discovered the value of “faith and dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss.” He also added that Chicago was the place where he learned that change comes when ordinary people come together and demand it and he still believed that “after eight years as your president.”
The speech had an overall positive message after a divisive election campaign. Mr. Obama said that young Americans who believe in “just, fair and inclusive America” make him feel more optimistic about the country than he was when he started in 2008.
The farewell at McCormick Place was attended by some 18,000 people. The largest convention center in North America is the same venue where Mr. Obama delivered his victory speech after defeating Mitt Romney in 2012.
According to an AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, President Obama leaves the Oval Office with an approval rating of 57% of Americans, a figure close to Bill Clinton when he left office.