President Barack Obama’s Farewell Address
January 10, 2017
Hello, Chicago! It’s good to be home!
Thank you. Thank you, everybody! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
It’s good to be home. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
We’re on live TV here, I’ve got, I’ve got to move. Come on. You can tell…you can tell that I, you…you…you…you can tell…you can tell that I’m a lame duck, because nobody is following instructions.
Everybody have a seat.
My fellow Americans, Michelle and I have been so touched by all the well-wishes that we’ve received over the past few weeks. But tonight, tonight, it’s my turn to say thanks.
Whether we have seen eye to eye or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the American people – in living rooms, in schools, at farms, on factory floors, at diners and on distant military outposts – those conversations are what have kept me honest, and kept me inspired, and kept me going. And every day, I have learned from you. You made me a better president, and you made me a better man.
So I first came to Chicago when I was in my early twenties, and I was still trying to figure out who I was; still searching for a purpose in my life. And it was a neighborhood not far from here where I began working with church groups in the shadows of closed steel mills. It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss.
I can’t do that.
Now, this is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, and they get engaged, and they come together to demand it.
After eight years as your President, I still believe that. And it’s not just my belief. It’s the beating heart of our American idea – our bold experiment in self-government.
It’s the conviction that we are all created equal, endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, among them – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It’s the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing; that we, the people, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union.
What a radical idea, the great gift that our Founders gave to us – the freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat, and toil, and imagination – and the imperative to strive together as well to achieve a common good, a greater good.
For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation. It’s what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom.
It’s what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande. It’s what pushed women to reach for the ballot. It’s what powered workers to organize. It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima, Iraq and Afghanistan – and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well.
So, so that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional. Not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change, and make life better for those who follow.