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Thousands brave cold for tickets to Obama farewell speech


    Sheryl Harvey is shown with her ticket to President Barack Obama’s final scheduled speech in Chicago.

CHICAGO >> Thousands of people waited for hours in single-digit temperatures on Saturday to try to get a ticket to President Barack Obama’s farewell speech in his hometown of Chicago, saying they want to show their appreciation and soak in the final moments of his history-making presidency.

People began lining up well before sunrise for the 8 a.m. ticket distribution. The lines stretched for blocks and snarled traffic around McCormick Place, the sprawling convention center along Lake Michigan where Obama will speak on Tuesday night.

“You never know when something as huge or as phenomenal like this will happen again, so I was like ‘I’m not missing this for nothing,’” said Umar Ibrahim, 28, who took the day off from his job as a city bus driver to snag a ticket, waking up at 3 a.m. to start the trek to the convention center.

“Just talking about it makes you beam,” he said as he clenched his ticket, grinning from ear-to-ear.

Obama’s final speech to the public will continue a tradition set in 1796 when George Washington addressed the American people for the last time as president. It will be followed by a “family reunion” for alumni of Obama’s former campaigns, according to a save-the-date sent to alumni.

Obama has described the event as “a chance to say thank you for this amazing journey,” to celebrate the ways the country has changed and “to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here.”

For many supporters, Obama’s decision to give the speech in Chicago rather than Washington added to the significance of the event. It was in Chicago’s Grant Park that in 2008 he delivered his victory speech after becoming the nation’s first black president.

“He’s coming home,” said Cheryl Bellamy-Bonner, 56, who volunteered on Obama’s 2004 U.S. Senate campaign. “It shows he really cares about the people.”

Bellamy-Bonner said she appreciated Obama’s professionalism in office and his support of diversity. If there have been any disappointments, she said, it’s that he couldn’t accomplish more, which she blamed on a lack of bipartisanship. On Tuesday night, she’s hoping to hear what Obama will do next and “what we can do to help.”

Organizers didn’t say how many tickets were available, but many people walked away empty-handed on Saturday.

Among them was Stacy Bond. The 28-year-old from suburban Evanston said she’s disheartened about President-elect Donald Trump and wanted to be in the room to hear directly from Obama, the first president she voted for after reaching the legal voting age.

“You kind of want to hold on to that last bit of him that we’ve had,” she said.

The White House says the farewell address also will be streamed live online. Obama will be joined by first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

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  • It will be a joyous day, the day Obama stops damaging America and becomes a “normal” citizen. Then he can sit back and watch all of his terrible fiats removed en mass, as America regains its stature world wide and the economy takes off to new levels never seen in 8 long years. Oh yeah!

  • Just lost all respect for Barry’s wife. Never has a first lady criticized the incumbent until after her husband is out of office. Truly a classless act. But then again both republicans and democrats have been acting classless this election cycle with the exception of Bernie Saunders.

  • Am proud of Barry, who was born, raised and educated in Hawaii. Good to see a local boy in public office who became the President of the United States. Go Buff @ Blue! Go Oahua! Imua!

  • Barry Obama and his loud mouth wife should just shut up and go away. They are now insignificant and yesterdays news. Michelle Obama is a fake and had too much
    influence on Barry Obama. Will not miss seeing Barry skip and hop when he does his jive walk. Good riddance to this loser and his family. They all should return to their
    home town Chicago, the sanctuary city where they belong.

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