You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Obama says goodbye in emotional speech

AAP logoAAP 10/01/2017

US President Barack Obama has issued an emotional defence of his vision to Americans facing a moment of anxiety and a dramatic change in leadership.

In his valedictory speech in his hometown of Chicago, Obama said America is a "better, stronger place" than when he was first elected in 2008.

Obama attributed the nation's advances to the efforts of the American people who trusted in his message of hope and change eight years ago.

Obama's speech was a public meditation on the trials and triumphs, promises kept and promises broken that made up his time in the White House.

Arguing his faith in America had been confirmed, Obama said he ends his tenure inspired by America's "boundless capacity" for reinvention, and he declared: "The future should be ours."

His delivery was forceful for most of his speech, but by the end he was wiping away tears as the crowd embraced him one last time.

Reflecting on the corrosive recent political campaign, he said: "That potential will be realised only if our democracy works. Only if our politics reflects the decency of our people. Only if all of us, regardless of our party affiliation or particular interest, help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now."

He made no mention of Republican Donald Trump, who will replace him in just 10 days. But when he noted the imminence of that change and the crowd began booing, he responded, "No, no, no, no, no." One of America'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."

Obama warned that racial, economic and political divisions remain a threat to democracy.

Obama, the first African American president, told supporters that his election had not ushered in a post-racial order as many had believed with ongoing racial violence dividing the nation.

"Hearts must change," Obama said, quoting literary icon Atticus Finch from classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view ... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

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.

Indeed, much of what Obama accomplished over the past eight years - 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.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon