After eight years in office, Barack Obama has said goodbye. The 44th president of the United States gave his farewell speech in his hometown of Chicago on Tuesday, January 10, and it included plenty of emotional moments.
Check out Us Weekly's full recap for by-the-minute details of all the highlights, and watch a clip above! (Start reading at the bottom of the post to get it in chronological order.)
10:01 p.m. ET: With his speech winding down, Obama spent his last moments on stage doing what he does best: stirring up serious feels among the under-30 crowd (and probably most of the over-30s too). Describing the upcoming generation as "unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic," Obama said that he looked forward to a future in which today's young folks took on the responsibility of moving our country forward.
And while he won't be in the White House anymore, doing the job he described as "the honor of my life," Obama also made it clear that he isn't going to fade into retirement after he steps down from office.
"I won't stop. In fact, I will be right there with you as a citizen for all my remaining days," he said. He only had one thing left to ask as president, and it was this: to believe in change, and our own ability to bring it about. And his last words before the usual thank-you-and-God-bless? They'll be familiar to anyone who watched in 2008 as he rode a tide of change to the highest office in the land … with a little twist:
"Yes, we can. Yes, we did. Yes, we can."
9:57 p.m. ET: Check out this clip of the president singing his wife's praises:
— Us Weekly (@usweekly) January 11, 2017
9:53 p.m. ET: Next came the shout-outs, and wow, the president writes one heck of a love note. Addressing Michelle Obama directly, he said, "For the past 25 years, you have not only been my wife and mother of my children, you have been my best friend. You took on a role you didn't ask for, and you made it your own, with grace and with grit and with style."
Then, it was Sasha and Malia's turn, as their dad described them as "kind and thoughtful and full of passion." (Sasha was not in attendance, although there was no mention of her absence.)
And finally, the president turned to his veep. To Joe Biden, he said, "You were the first decision I made as a nominee, and it was the best. Not just because you have been a great vice president, but because in the bargain I gained a brother." (Though Obama didn't mention it, it's also worth noting that Biden gave us the memes we needed, if not the ones we deserved.)
9:48 p.m. ET: "America is no fragile thing, but the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured," Obama said, segueing to the inspirational portion of his speech. A quote from George Washington preceded the main point: that we need to dial back the divisiveness of our politics. Describing participation in democracy as a "joyous task," Obama reminded his audience that we all share a common title which comes with shared responsibilities: "citizen." And millennials, this one was for you:
"If you're tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try talking with one of them in real life," he said.
Among the things the president suggested doing in lieu of snarking at folks on Twitter: organizing, engaging and even running for office yourself. (Hey, someone has to do it!) And though it's not without risks, he said, we should all strive to assume the best rather than the worst about the people we disagree with.
9:42 p.m. ET: Next up on the president's list of must-discuss topics: national security. On this front, he made a promise.
"ISIL will be destroyed, and no one who threatens America will ever be safe."
Obama also paid tribute to our service members, calling it "the honor of a lifetime" to have been their commander in chief.
But in addition to vigilance against would-be attackers from outside our borders, we also need to make sure our values aren't corrupted from within, Obama said — which is why he supports the continued effort to end discrimination, torture and other un-American policies. Betraying our principles, he said, would be our downfall.
"Rivals like Russia and China cannot match our influence around the world — unless we give up what we stand for."
9:34 p.m. ET: Obama called out a third threat to our democracy: tribalism at the expense of facts.
"Without a willingness to admit new information and concede that your opponent might be making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, then we're going to keep talking past each other," he said.
The word "science" got a round of applause from the crowd, who seemed to anticipate where Obama was going with this: the ongoing friction between our political factions about the problem of climate change. The president cited the progress made to combat rising temperatures and sea levels as necessary, even if disagreement continues as to the cause of environmental changes.
9:29 p.m. ET: Income inequality was next on the menu of things the president wanted to discuss, as he moved on to the question of things that potentially threaten our democracy. A reference to Americans who are "convinced that the game is fixed against them" got a round of affirmative noises from the crowd. (Again, though President-elect Trump wasn't mentioned by name, the specter of his voters loomed large in this part of the speech.)
Obama became passionate as he talked about the need for continued progress, education for all. And then, for what will be his last time as president, he moved on to the tricky topic of race.
"There's a second threat to our democracy," he said, going on to describe the idea of "a post-racial America" as unrealistic. Race remains a divisive issue, though Obama pointed out that race relations are certainly better than they were even 10 years ago.
"But we're not where we need to be, and all of us have more work to do," he said. He warned of the dangers of continuing to frame economic issues in ways that pit lower-earning workers against each other along racial lines, and of fomenting fear of immigrant labor, while doing nothing to combat the enormous divide between the one percent and the rest of us.
The solution? Anti-discrimination laws are a good start, Obama said, but that's not enough: "Hearts must change."
9:19 p.m. ET: His introduction complete, Obama moved on to a brief recap of the greatest hits from his presidency. It's a familiar list of achievements, court decisions and legislation: rebooting the auto industry and bringing back jobs after the 2008 recession; finding and killing Osama bin Laden; securing marriage equality; and, of course, the Affordable Care Act, Obama's signature piece of legislation. But the president didn't take credit for all of this:
"You were the change," he said. "Because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started."
Again, the crowd erupted in applause. However, the cheers turns to boos when the topic turned to the impending inauguration of Trump (not mentioned by name), a wave of disapproval which Obama quickly shut down.
"Our boundless capacity for risk and reinvention means that the future should be ours. But that potential will only be realized if our democracy works — only if our politics reflects the decency of our people," he said. What followed was a plea to rediscover our sense of common purpose, as the president went on to say that he wished to focus in his speech tonight on democracy. Democracy, he said, requires a basic sense of solidarity: "For all our differences, we rise and fall as one."
9:10 p.m. ET: We've had our first interruption of the evening: a cheer of, "Four more years!" erupted from the crowd, gaining strength until the president was forced to pause and acknowledge it.
"I can't do that," he replied, grinning, before resuming his speech. With his signature, deliberate style, Obama extolled the exceptionalism of America — which he said is exemplified not by our country's perfection but it's ability to make progress.
"The long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion. A constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, not just some."
9:05 p.m. ET: "Hello, Chicago!" said the president — and Chicago said hello back, loudly. After making a solo entrance to a soundtrack of U2, Obama stood at the podium for more than a minute while the crowd was on its feet applauding and cheering, ignoring his attempts to make everyone sit down.
"Tonight it's my turn to say thanks," he said, going on to describe his conversations with Americans of all stripes as his source of inspiration and motivation over the years. "You made me a better president, and you made me a better man."
9 p.m. ET: The commander in chief, 55, will be joined by first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as he takes the stage at the McCormick Place convention center, 10 days before President-elect Donald Trump's January 20 inauguration. Barack Obama's final speech as POTUS airs live on the major networks and CNN, along with livestreaming on the White House's Facebook and YouTube pages.
Obama's final speech to America comes at a fraught moment, as his legacy (including the Affordable Care Act) faces an imminent threat from a Republican-controlled legislature and incoming president — and as a divided country eyes his successor with emotions ranging from quivering anticipation to outright dread.
Given the distinct differences in oratory style between the current POTUS and our president-elect, whatever the next four years bring, tonight's farewell will almost certainly stand in sharp contrast to the speeches we hear from Donald Trump for the next four years.
Follow along with Us' minute-by-minute live blog for all the highlights! Obama's farewell address airs Tuesday, January 10, at 9 p.m. ET.
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