Tuesday night, President Barack Obama delivered what was billed as his “final speech” as the 44th president of the United States. Speaking from his adopted hometown of Chicago, the president took credit for the successes of the past eight years, while offering his unique perspective on the direction of the country going forward. Ten memorable lines stood out.
Mr. Obama called on the country to be “anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy.” The speech centered on the values of the democratic system despite challenges he perceives from his successor, Donald Trump, though he only named him once.
These are the most memorable lines from his speech.
1. On democracy: “Democracy can buckle when it gives in to fear.”
2. On Michelle: “You have made me proud, and you have made the country proud.”
3. On believing in America: “Yes we can. Yes we did. Yes we can.”
4. On the lack of common ground: “It’s not just dishonest, this selective sorting of the facts; it’s self-defeating, because as my mom used to tell me, reality has a way of catching up with you.”
5. On race in America: “After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic.”
6. On American exceptionalism: “Not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but we have shown the capacity to change and make life better for those who follow.”
7. On setbacks: “For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed.”
8. On bipartisanship: “All of us, regardless of our party affiliation or particular interest, must help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now.”
9. On political discourse: “We weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character aren’t even willing to enter into public service; so coarse with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are not just misguided, but malevolent. We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others; when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and when we sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.”
10. On “four more years” chants: “I can’t do that.”
It was an excellent speech, one of the president’s finest. His tribute to his family, Vice President Joe Biden, and the American people was heartfelt, moving, and sincere. It was a good night for all Americans, no matter their political persuasion, to hear their elected leader at his best. His claims of success can be debated by others. This was a time for our president to take the well-deserved spotlight one more time. And in the bright lights of Chicago, he did well.
Watching the peaceful transition of power in President Obama’s speech reminds all of us that this is still the greatest country on earth.