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‘Yes we did’ — Obama bids farewell in nostalgic last speech


    President Barack Obama wiped away tears while speaking during his farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago on Tuesday.


    President Barack Obama talked to his supporters after giving his presidential farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago on Tuesday.


    President Barack Obama speaks at McCormick Place in Chicago, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, giving his presidential farewell address.

CHICAGO >> President Barack Obama has bid farewell to the nation in an emotional speech that sought to comfort a country on edge over rapid economic changes, persistent security threats and the election of Donald Trump.

Forceful at times and tearful at others, Obama’s valedictory speech in his hometown of Chicago was a public meditation on the many trials the U.S. faces as Obama takes his exit. For the challenges that are new, Obama offered his vision for how to surmount them, and for the persistent problems he was unable to overcome, he offered optimism that others, eventually, will.

“Yes, our progress has been uneven,” he told a crowd of some 18,000. “The work of democracy has always been hard, contentious and sometimes bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back.”

Yet Obama argued his faith in America had only been strengthened by what he’s witnessed the past eight years, and he declared: “The future should be ours.”

Brushing away tears with a handkerchief, Obama paid tribute to the sacrifices made by his wife — and by his daughters, who were young girls when they entered the big white home on Pennsylvania Avenue and leave as young women. He praised first lady Michelle Obama for taking on her role “with grace and grit and style and good humor” and for making the White House “a place that belongs to everybody.”

Soon Obama and his family will exit the national stage, to be replaced by Trump, a man Obama had stridently argued poses a dire threat to the nation’s future. His near-apocalyptic warnings throughout the campaign have cast a continuing shadow over his post-election efforts to reassure Americans anxious about the future.

Indeed, much of what Obama accomplished during his two terms — from health care overhaul and environmental regulations to his nuclear deal with Iran — could potentially be upended by Trump. So even as Obama seeks to define what his presidency meant for America, his legacy remains in question.

Even as Obama said farewell — in a televised speech of just under an hour — the anxiety felt by many Americans about the future was palpable, and not only in the Chicago convention center where he stood in front of a giant presidential seal. The political world was reeling from new revelations about an unsubstantiated report that Russia had compromising personal and financial information about Trump.

Obama made only passing reference to the next president. When he noted he would soon be replaced by the Republican, his crowd began to boo.

“No, no, no, no, no,” Obama said. One of the nation’s great strengths, he said, “is the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next.”

Earlier, as the crowd of thousands chanted, “Four more years,” he simply smiled and said, “I can’t do that.”

Still, Obama offered what seemed like a point-by-point rebuttal of Trump’s vision for America.

He pushed back on the isolationist sentiments inherent in Trump’s trade policies. He decried discrimination against Muslim Americans and lamented politicians who question climate change. And he warned about the pernicious threat to U.S. democracy posed by purposely deceptive fake “news” and a growing tendency of Americans to listen only to information that confirms what they already believe.

Get out of your “bubbles,” said the politician who rose to a prominence with a message of unity, challenging divisions of red states and blue states. Obama also revived a call to activism that marked his first presidential campaign, telling Americans to stay engaged in politics.

“If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet,” Obama said pointedly, “try to talk with one in real life. “

With Democrats still straining to make sense of their devastating election losses, Obama tried to offer a path forward. He called for empathy for the struggles of all Americans — from minorities, refugees and transgender people to middle-aged white men whose sense of economic security has been upended in recent years.

Paying tribute to his place as America’s first black president, Obama acknowledged there were hopes after his 2008 election for a post-racial America.

“Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic,” Obama said, though he insisted race relations are better now than a few decades ago.

The former community organizer closed out his speech by reviving his campaign chant, “Yes we can.” To that, he added for the first time, “Yes we did.”

He staunchly defended the power of activists to make a difference — the driving factor behind Obama’s optimism in the face of so much anxiety, he said. Though the coalition of young Americans and minorities who twice got Obama elected wasn’t enough to elect Democrat Hillary Clinton to replace him, Obama suggested their day was still ahead.

“You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result that the future is in good hands,” he said.

Steeped in nostalgia, Obama’s return to Chicago was less a triumphant homecoming than a bittersweet reunion bringing together loyalists and staffers, many of whom have long since left Obama’s service, moved on to new careers and started families. They came from across the country — some on Air Force One, others on their own — to be present for the last major moment of Obama’s presidency.

Unexpectedly absent was Obama’s younger daughter, Sasha, who had been expected to join sister Malia at the speech. The White House said Sasha stayed in Washington due to a school exam this morning.

After returning to Washington, Obama will have less than two weeks before he accompanies Trump in the presidential limousine to the Capitol for the new president’s swearing-in. After nearly a decade in the spotlight, Obama will become a private citizen, an elder statesman at 55. He plans to take some time off, write a book — and immerse himself in a Democratic redistricting campaign.

Associated Press writers Ken Thomas and Calvin Woodward in Washington contributed to this report.

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    • it’s like listening to a cacophony of an early morning trash truck dumping bin after bin of empty cans and shattering bottles of failed hope and false promises echoing in a dark obscure alley and continuing much too long at a long awaited end that comes too late.

      goodnight, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye.

      10 days to making america safe again.

      • Doomsday republicans can come out of 8 years of bunker. Their greatest fears is reality! Commie Russians are running the country. Comrade Putin owns trumpf even before the game started.

        • Dude, wake up Obama added more parasites to the rank an file of welfare w#ores, is that success? The stock market is soaring to new height but the number of parasites with their hands holding out for government hand out is soared as well; so what it means is that the left millionaires and billionaires are reaping the benefit of the stock market rally and not THE REAL TAX PAYERS, your do-do head politicians tried to woo this election cycle.

      • Well if you live at the dump and like the noise, it’s ALL ON YOU to get out and smell the roses. You have yourself to blame. Why blame Obama. Man Up. Stop whining

        • You’re the loser that always “whining”. The “dump” you talking is Odummys dump, where all you losers can go.

        • I admire Nanakuli Boss this morning. He has the right idea! Very nice looking this morning I must also say!

      • Say what you will about what he accomplished and what he didn’t, Obama exudes dignity. It’s a quality that will be missing once the juvenile Tweeter takes office. Well, we can only hope and pray that Trump has chosen his cabinet wisely (for the most part, I think he has) because that’s who collectively wlll have to help unite our country going forward. God help us all. #KAS.

        • IRT meat: Tons of links with trump ADMITTING that what he said WAS NOT true…Saying that his PROMISES were really just talk and he DIDN’T mean it…#MAGA

        • My take on President Barack Obama is that he spent an awfully long time to say very little. You might even consider this his trademark approach characterizing the last eight years.

          A slow talker is sometimes just what he appears to be – and it’s not indicative of wisdom or careful consideration.

    • People will continue to hate him to the bitter end since they’ve been brainwashed to believe anything that Trump and the GOP says. Now that the Republicans own Washington, they can’t point fingers anymore and will own every failure coming out of there for the next four years, and the American public will be the collateral damage.

    • Hawaii has every reason to be proud of our native son. He is so eloquent, smart and moral. I tremble when I think of how much hatred Trump has for Hawaii’s ethnically mixed population and high immigrant population. Will we really survive 4 years of him? He is utterly weird and dishonest.

    • All of us cried last night. He was so eloquent and inspiring. I am so afraid for America with the weird and dishonest huckster Trump in charge. We will all suffer for the next 4 years.

    • You really should get your memory checked. GW was the worst president at least during my life time. 30% drop in the stock market, high unemployment, record deficits. Way to go republicans. We shall see how the Donald does with his many conflicts of interest. Meet the new swamp, 10 times as big and Deep as the old swamp. Enjoy your corruption republicans.

  • Makes me respect W Bush and Laura more–they were a class act and one never heard disparaging remarks from them about the Obamas. Even the elder Bush left a letter for B Clinton wishing him luck and support. The OFFICE of the presidency should get respect. Look how many seats in the House and Senate were lost by the Democrats since O took office–it says something!!!

  • Hawaii born President Obama must reconcile his hopes with President elect Donald J. Trump? Give us a break. Neva will happen. Hawaii born President Obama ego conceding to President elect Trumps? Big Joke.

    • The big fear on the left is that Trump will improve the country in obvious and tangible ways and in the process expose Barry for the divisive and incompetent man that he really is.

        • Likewise. Klastri and Allie are playing right into Putin’s hands. They will destroy democracy.

        • IRT lespark: You mean Putin, The Donald’s Dearest Friend??? Looks like you dropped your Russian secret there…You forgot to stick with the STORY, “Putin and Russia are our friends” remember…Looks like you might get a visit during the night by Boris…#MAGA

        • Putin loves riding big white horse with silvery mane, Putin with his shirt off riding PEEOTUS. Bareback Cowboys.

  • “The system did respond, in November, to Americans who by and large rejected Obama’s policies by electing Republican Donald Trump.”
    AP/SA forgot to delete this line.

  • Priceless: “The system will respond to ordinary people coming together to try to move the country in a better direction,” he said ahead of the speech. The system did respond, in November, to Americans who by and large rejected Obama’s policies by electing Republican Donald Trump.

      • Seems like Obama once again shows his BRAVERY…Obama agreed to SAY this during the briefing on Donald and FLOTUS secrets that Russia has…For the betterment of America he must support Donald…Obama knows the secrets and its very JUICY…Thanks Obama…KEONI send me FLOTUS link to her video when it comes out…January 20, 10 days to Release Date…#MAGA

        • “Bravery”? Kissing the terrorists -ss is “bravery”? Terror attacks abound because of “the JV team” ISIS. How delusional you are.

        • BRAVE yes, because of what he NEEDED to say to keep America together…Had to say it because of Sex tapes of Trump and Melania that Russia has…Business dealings and “other” JUICY tidbits about the TRUMPS…Obama did what’s best for USA told us to support the Trump, starting on January 20, 2017, until then Trump not President…#MAGA

        • @ jusris
          Blessed to know that you are on the liberal side…for now.
          9 days….it’s coming.
          January 20 #MAGA

  • Dear Kenyan Muslin anchor baby, it’s your bench and you can keep it!

    Please take your bench out of Hanauma Bay and mount it in Chicago as you sit and stare at the serene horizon looking at the very talented gangbangers shank each other in the windy city and dance to the rhythm of bullets flying like in the Matrix movie.

    As they say in Swahili our dear adopted Muslim anchor baby brother, Kwaheri! (Goodbye)

  • “Happy Trails”
    People need to understand the reason we have PE . Donald J. Trump today is because of Obama! And yes “Dedicated Citizens did make their voices heard”at the polls thus the result of PE.DJT winning the election !
    Think about it? Hillary Clinton had this campaign in the Bag! I say again…… “HAD”!

    I sincerely wish him the Best in the future. I’m just glad that it’s Over! I also wish he could be just as Humble and “Faithful” in the transition of the US presidency as President GW BUSH did and all the previous Presidents before him .Aloha

  • actually all that tearful moment with him and all the libs tearing, are tears because Hillary lost, when will these crybabies stop crying, enough already get over it you lost.

  • Eight years as number one citizen and soon not hold any notables rank of distinction except a has been, can deflates anyone egos! Wishing you the best of both worlds. Godspeed and aloha!

  • Length of Farewell speeches….
    R. Reagan 23 min.
    Bubba 8 min.
    GW B 23 min
    Narcissist Obama just under an hour.

    All about him to the very end…but that’s ok
    10 days…..
    January 20 #MAGA

  • Disappointing. Initially Obama held a lot of promise. But as the years wore on, he was more talk than action. More my way or not your way. More about talk shows, basketball and golf than working with folks across the aisle to move bills along. Obama really looks like he’ll miss being in the spotlight and miss the power that he had. Please fade like a honorable person and refrain from comments about the new president.

  • “unsubstantiated report” the russians had something on peotus trump? which the ruissians denied?

    there is an “unsubstantiated that michelle obama is really a man.
    why don’t you put that in there also!
    i would say that the sa is in the tank for obama

  • The little punk was emotional when he gave his little speech. Emotional because he knew that he had failed the country in his 8 years of chaos and confusion.
    Millions of people were killed or displaced because of his total lack of leadership. He will truly be remembered as the one who led the greatest nation on earth
    ” from behind ” Good riddance to this fake. He and his brood will not be coming to Hawaii as often anymore and he will have to pay for his vacation.

  • Vitriol-spewing lowlifes coming out from under the rocks, emboldened by Twitler. Well, slither around in the mud while you can. You have four years, unless your venerable leader chokes on the foot he keeps stuffing in his mouth.

  • The Obama’s are a lovely family. Barry is very hip and gives a great speech…he acts and looks dignified. But he views the world as he sees it, not how it actually is. His policies are based on progressive ideas that have failed throughout history and have failed this country. He did give the order to kill Bin Ladden, so he gets credit for that. Saving us from a depression?…debatable. Affordable Care Act a total mess…and the list grows from here.
    Will Trump be the savior?…we will find out. Will republican controlled D.C. save us from out of control spending…probably not (unless Trump tweets them to embarrassment). I’m thinking it can’t get worse and worth a try.
    Democrates have been running this state for what seems like forever. Are any of you happy with how they are doing? Change is coming…hoping it will be better than “change and hope”.

  • Some people in Hawaii need to learn to thank the long time wives who stood by them and supported them only to have the men cheat on them! I can think of a Mayor and more egregiously a Vice Chancellor at UH, who should’ve stood by a wife who literally made him! Someone please take this comment to the HPU development officer, the master puppeteer, blocker of e mails! Shame on the men who behave badly! Here is an example for you! Auwe! Auwe! Kokua! Kokua!

  • YES WE DID= ruin America in the eyes of the world..Hussein has accomplished what he set out to do…revitalize the ugly race war again, let his muslim brothers lose to destroy the civilized world…begone with you, forever ….

  • Perhaps, History will remember Pres. Obama for what he truly was…a charismatic, popular, first black president, but also being one of the worst managers of the federal govt. ever who ends his tenure with a nation divided and his party in shambles. With the VA, OPM, EPA, Obamacare etc. scandals the fed. Govt. becomes more inefficient, expensive, and less responsive to their customer taxpayers. Sadly his legacy has become the Trump elect presidency…a questionable if not diminished honor at best.

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