Barack Obama has made his final speech as President of the United States, and he left off where he had begun barely nine years before when he shot into the national consciousness from obscurity. Eloquent and measured, with it seemed every word weighed and considered. A far cry from the fairground barking we can expect for the next four years.
Here are some of the outstanding phrases from his final speech in Chicago.
“Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear.(…)That’s why, for the past eight years, I’ve worked to put the fight against terrorism on a firmer legal footing. That’s why we’ve ended torture, worked to close Gitmo, and reform our laws governing surveillance to protect privacy and civil liberties.”
“The unemployment rate is near a 10-year low. The uninsured rate has never, ever been lower. Health care costs are rising at the slowest rate in 50 years. And if anyone can put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we’ve made to our health care system – that covers as many people at less cost – I will publicly support it.”
“To Joe Biden, you were the first decision I made as a nominee, and it was the best. To
Michelle, you took on a role you didn’t ask for and made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humor. You’ve made me proud and you’ve made the country proud.”
“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 remaining days. (…).I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours. Yes We Can. Yes We Did. Yes We Can. Thank you. God bless you.”
The Obamas also provided America with a family model. As a couple the Obamas had a visible warmth and affection not seen since the Reagans, and their children managed to grow up in public without major scandal.
Euronews’ Washington correspondent Stefan Grobe followed the Obama era, and he was asked by Nial O’Reilly for his analysis of the president’s final address.
“Stefan, it was intended to be an historic speech in the city where it all began for Obama. ‘Yes we can’, he said, and added ‘Yes we did.’ But did he? Did he deliver on his promises? How will America judge him?”
“Well it’s hard to tell Nial, right now. Outgoing presidents tend to have a much more favorable view many many years after they have left the White House. So Barack Obama gave a very emotional speech to his supporters. It was a class act if you want. No American president in history has ever done that.
The most recent modern presidents gave their farewell addresses from the White House, from the confines of the White House, without any public witnesses, although they were televised speeches. Barack Obama stepped in front of 20,000 enthusiastic supporters and he certainly wanted to keep the “can do” spirit, the “yes we can” spirit alive, calling on his supporters to stay engaged, to stay active in politics and of course, those were comforting words to the Democratic electorate that is still reeling from the unexpected and stunning loss suffered in November.”
“Turning to international relations, Obama may look back the Iran nuclear deal and relations with Cuba as major achievements, but critics would say he failed in other areas, like Syria.”
“Obama has the exact opposite point of view. Actually he said in interview a month ago, that the decision he’s most proud of was to stay away from the Syrian civil war and not to engage American forces in that theatre. If you look at what else he did in the middle east, pulling American troops out of the wars in Afghanistan and Irak, conflicts that he inherited, conflicts where the US spent trillions of dollars without any obvious successes, Obama is very very certain that he did the right thing. Now again, will history judge him favorably? That remains of course to be seen. This has to be compared with what the next US policies will be.”
“The allegations about Kremlin interference in US politics, especially these latest ones about Trump, have put American democracy under the spotlight as never before. How much do they damage America’s standing in the world and how much do they undermine Americans’ faith in their democracy?”
“That’s a great question and I think it’s just too early to tell. The problem with this leaked memo is that it’s mostly unverifiable information. Now Trump’s problem of course is that many people are not surprised. It could be true, it could be genuine, because Trump is such an unpredictable character, doing a lot of erratic things. Now so far Trump’s transition team has strongly rejected these allegations. One thing is certain though, the Russia problem that Trump has on his hands right now will not go away once he is sworn in. It will only get bigger, Nial.”