President Obama Pays Tribute To The First Family And Vice President Joe Biden And Calls Out Republicans For Selective Sorting Of Facts And Discrimination And Says A “Post-Racial America” After His Election Was Never Realistic.
President Barack Obama received a hero’s welcome in Chicago Tuesday night as he took the stage to deliver his farewell speech.
Supporters stomped on the bleachers set up behind him and members of the crowd shouted ‘four more years’ over a disruption. ‘You can tell that I’m a lame duck,’ he said over cheering from supporters and members of his administration, ‘because nobody’s following instructions.’
The exiting president who campaigned on ‘hope and change’ told his supporters ‘you were the change’ and encouraged them to continue standing up for their values.
Obama never mentioned his successor by name but made multiple references to his nemesis as he declared to loud clapping and cheers ‘that science and reason matter’ and referenced his attacks on Muslim Americans.
He also decried the ‘selective sorting of facts’ he said members of the other party have embraced.
In the 50-minute speech Obama also took on the touchy topic of race, saying that talk of a ‘post-racial America’ after he was elected ‘was never realistic’ as he condemned the framing of economic disagreements as a battle between ‘hardworking white middle class and undeserving minorities.’
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‘Michelle – for the past twenty-five years, you’ve been not only my wife and mother of my children, but my best friend. You took on a role you didn’t ask for and made it your own with grace and with grit and with style and good humor,’ he told his wife in his remarks.
He called Vice President Joe Biden, also in attendance, ‘a brother’ and said his decision to add him to the ticket was the first he made and the best.
He told his daughters, only one of whom was in attendance that of all the things he’d done in his life, ‘I’m most proud to be your dad.’
Obama’s primetime address, which began promptly 9pm EST, is his last attempt to steer the country toward the policies and values at the core of his vision for America before Donald Trump enters the White House.
The Democratic president offered advice to the American people about the challenges that lie ahead. He only briefly rehashed his eight-year presidency.
President Obama sat for an interview with Lester Holt of NBC News at Valois, a Chicago restaurant, before the first family traveled the short distance across downtown for his final speech.
‘My fellow Americans,’ Obama said to cheers, ‘Michelle and I have been so touched by all the well-wishes we’ve received over the past few weeks.’ Every day, I learned from you. You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.’
Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Housing Secretary Julian Castro and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel were seen in the audience cheering and clapping for Obama during his remarks.
Vice President Joe Biden, who spent his afternoon at the Detroit Auto Show in Michigan, joined Obama in Chicago along with Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden. They did not deliver remarks but joined him on stage, alongside Michelle and Malia, at the conclusion of his speech.
The Obamas have a house on the South Side of Chicago. It was here that the nation’s first black president declared victory in 2008 in Grant Park and where he cultivated his optimistic brand of American politics.
He and his wife are not staying at their Chicago home overnight. They are returning to Washington late Tuesday evening, taking what is likely to be their final flight on Air Force One while Obama is president.
The 55-year-old will step down in just 10 days with his legacy hanging in the balance after Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote but came up short in the Electoral College.
Operating under a belief that the messenger, not the message, caused the shock loss, Obama used the bully pulpit tonight to decry the divisive rhetoric he has commonly associated with Trump and policies his successor has espoused.
‘We must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are,’ Obama said on Tuesday night. ‘That’s why, for the past eight years, I’ve worked to put the fight against terrorism on a firm 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.’
In a pointed assault on Trump he added, ‘That’s why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans.’
The president stated as he did on the campaign trail, that he is ‘even more optimistic about this country’ than when he came to the White House. ‘I know our work has not only helped so many Americans; it has inspired so many Americans – especially so many young people out there – to believe you can make a difference; to hitch your wagon to something bigger than yourselves,’ he said.
He’ll also talked about fairness and justice and the fight for marriage equality.
‘We cannot withdraw from global fights – to expand democracy, and human rights, women’s rights, and LGBT rights – no matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem,’ he stated.
The president publicly needled his successor to back away from changes to his policies that Trump forcefully campaigned on such as his plans to deport illegal immigrants.
‘If we’re unwilling to invest in the children of immigrants, just because they don’t look like us, we diminish the prospects of our own children – because those brown kids will represent a larger and larger share of America’s workforce,’ Obama said.
Obama offered a final defense of his foreign policy in December. Tonight’s speech was to focus on ‘many of the domestic policies and domestic considerations that the next President will have to carefully consider,’ his spokesman, Josh Earnest, told reporters Monday.
Trump campaigned against Obama’s most prized accomplishments, including his health care law. Republicans in the House and the Senate are already making moves to enforce a long-standing promise to repeal it.
The next occupant of the Oval Office has also promised to reverse Obama’s executive actions on immigration and force millions of illegal immigrants out of the country, though he’s since softened his stance and could allow children who were relocated to the country to stay.
A proposed ban on entry into the country for residents of counties afflicted by terrorism directly conflicts with Obama’s refugee policies. His administration has opened its doors to displaced Syrians. Obama mentioned it indirectly as he talked about America’s history of inclusion.
‘The President believes that obviously the diversity of this country is a strength and that, for all our differences, there’s much more that unites us than separates us. And our country is stronger when we remember that principle and we draw upon those common values,’ Earnest said Monday.
Obama also pressed for policies to reduce economic inequality that serve the interests of American families that have been ‘left behind.’ He advocated for ‘a new social compact’ and an update to the social safety net.
‘We can argue about how to best achieve these goals. But we can’t be complacent about the goals themselves,’ Obama said. ‘If we don’t create opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come.’
The White House said Obama felt ‘an obligation’ to address these issues and ‘to talk about what he’s learned over the last eight years, what he’s learned about the country, what he’s learned about governing the country, and offer up his advice to the American people about the most effective way to confront the challenges that we see ahead,’ his spokesman said Monday.
Trump comes into office with a significantly lower approval rating than his predecessor. His December average was 43.5 percent on poll-tracking website Real Clear Politics. Obama received high marks from 72 percent of Americans in December of 2008.
Obama’s high approval rating as he leaves office has bolstered White House claims that the president remains popular, even though Clinton got beat at the ballot box.
‘I think that is an indication of the strong support that the American people continue to have for his agenda and for his priorities and for his message,’ his spokesman told reporters yesterday.
‘Now, she didn’t win, but if you’re just looking for public support for the message that President Obama was helping her communicate, it’s clear that that was a message that resonated deeply with the American people.’
The president was still working on his speech yesterday, his spokesman said, but drafts of his remarks indicate that it will be much shorter than the State of the Union addresses he’s delivered to Congress around this time each year.
An ode to his extraordinary journey to White House, Obama, the nation’s first black president, is returning to Illinois, where he announced his candidacy in 2007 from the steps of the Old State Capitol, mimicking Abraham Lincoln.
Obama was expected to lose to Clinton, too, but surpassed her in the Democratic primary and went on to win the White House.
‘I know that I haven’t spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I’ve been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change,’ he said in his first speech as a candidate.
He admitted Tuesday, ‘We’re not where we need to be. All of us have more work to do.
‘After all, if every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and undeserving minorities, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves.’
Anyone could attend tonight’s event at McCormick Place convention center, but tickets were snatched up quickly. Chicago’s ABC7 says they were selling for as much as $5,000 on Ebay and Craigslist. Most were listed for $300 or more.
Some Obama fans were offering to trade equally unique items like tickets to the musical Hamilton. One desperate attendee successfully traded her 40-inch flat screen TV for a ticket, the news network reported.
By Francesca Chambers, White House Correspondent For Dailymail.com In Chicago, Illinois and Jessica Chia For Dailymail.com