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Posted at: Jan 12, 2017, 2:17 AM; last updated: Jan 12, 2017, 2:18 AM (IST)

‘Yes, we did. Yes, we can’

Obama closes the book on presidency | Pushes values and prods Trump in final, emotional address

Chicago, January 11

“Yes, we did. Yes, we can,” was how President Barack Obama today bade goodbye to Americans in an emotional speech, warning them of the threats to democracy from growing racism, inequality and discrimination, in an oblique reference to Donald Trump's rise to power.

Refashioning his winning 2008 campaign mantra for 2017, Obama while addressing nearly 20,000 supporters in his hometown here asked them to hold fast to their optimism and to look within for leadership. “I am asking you to believe not in my ability to bring about change, but in yours,” 55-year-old Obama said.

“I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents: ...Yes, we can,” he said in the prime time address that lasted 55 minutes. “Yes, we did. Yes, we can”.

The outgoing President lamented that despite his historic election as the nation's first black president in 2008, “race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society.” “After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic,” he acknowledged.

Obama's presidency will come to an end on January 20 when Republican Trump would be sworn in as US' 45th President. He promised a peaceful transfer of power to Trump. Without mentioning Trump, he used his speech to offer an implicit rebuttal to many of the contentious themes like the temporary ban on Muslim immigration that characterised the 2016 presidential campaign.

Obama said he rejects discrimination against Muslim Americans, and drew cheers for saying they are “just as patriotic as we are”.

He also warned economic divisions have intensified racial divisions, particularly at a time when the growth of the nation's Hispanic population continues.

To be serious about race, Obama said laws to fight discrimination in hiring, housing, education and criminal justice must be upheld-and “hearts must change.” 

“But 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,” Obama said.

He said no one can defeat America unless “we betray our Constitution and our principles in the fight”.

After successful eight years of his presidency, Obama said he is leaving the stage even more optimistic about the country than he was when he started.

“By almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place” than it was eight years ago, he told thousands of supporters. — PTI 


On democracy

Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear. So just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are.

On race

After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic. Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society.

On Muslims

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 civil liberties. That's why I reject discrimination against Muslim-Americans.

On global fights

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.

On Russia, China

Rivals like Russia or China cannot match our influence around the world-unless we give up what we stand for, and turn ourselves into just another big country that bullies smaller neighbours

Thanks Michelle for her grace, grit

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 grit and style and good humour. You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody and a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. You've made me proud. You've made the country proud.

On daughters Sasha and Malia

Malia and Sasha, under the strangest of circumstances, you have become two amazing young women, smart and beautiful, but more importantly, kind and thoughtful and full of passion.You wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. Of all that I've done in my life, I'm most proud to be your dad.

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