Declaring “yes we did,” President Obama used his farewell address in Chicago Tuesday night to tout and defend his administration’s record of change over the last eight years — while voicing regrets about rising partisanship and frayed race relations as he prepares to transfer power next week to President-elect Donald Trump.
“It’s good to be home,” Obama said in his speech to the thousands gathered at Chicago’s McCormick Place. “Tonight it’s my turn to say thanks.”
Obama used the speech to warn of an increasingly divided nation, saying “we’re not where we need to be, and all of us have more work to do” to solve racial and economic inequality in particular.
However, he told the crowd that after eight years as president, he still believes in “the beating heart of our American idea – our bold experiment in self government.”
“I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.”
Faced with the President-elect Donald Trump’s vows to roll back many of his policies, the president spent much of his speech defending his legacy.
“If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history,” he said, before listing off a series of other achievements, “…you might have said our sights were set a little too high.”
When he mentioned his successor, the crowd booed but was quickly silenced by Obama. In a marked departure from his fiery stump speeches during the election campaign on behalf of Hillary Clinton, he chose not to attack Trump directly, but called for America to rediscover a sense of common purpose.