It’s good to be home. My fellow Americans, Michelle and I have been so touched by all the well-wishes we’ve received over the past few weeks. But tonight it’s my turn to say thanks. Whether we’ve seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the American people – in living rooms and schools; at farms and on factory floors; at diners and on distant outposts – are what have kept me honest, kept me inspired, and kept me going. Every day, I learned from you. You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.
I first came to Chicago when I was in my early twenties, still trying to figure out who I was; still searching for a purpose to my life. It was in neighborhoods 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. This is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and 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 perfect union.
This is the great gift our Founders gave us. The freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat, toil, and imagination – and the imperative to strive together as well, to achieve 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.
Highlights of President Barack Obama’s final speech
- You can tell that I’m laid back because nobody’s following instructions
- Michelle and I are so touched by all the good wishes we received over the last few days
- Every day, I have learned from you. You made me a better President, and you made me a better man
- I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.
- A great gift our Founders gave us. The freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat, toil, and imagination
- For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation
- The long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all
- It’s up to all of us to make sure our government can help us meet the many challenges we still face.
- Our youth and drive, our diversity and openness, our boundless capacity for risk & reinvention mean that the future should be ours
- Our democracy won’t work without a sense that everyone has economic opportunity
- Last year, incomes rose for all races, all age groups, for men and for women.
- Going forward, we must uphold laws against discrimination – in hiring, in housing, in education and the criminal justice system
- Let us not become a people that think that our opinions are facts, instead, embrace facts on the basis of the evidence available.
- Without bolder action, our children won’t have time to debate climate change; they’ll be busy dealing with its effects
- It has been a privilege to be your commander-in-chief. I salute you all for all that you have done.
- The global coalition we’re leading against ISIL has taken out their leaders, and taken away about half their territory.
- America is a nation of great values. That’s why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans, who are just as patriotic and love America just as much as the rest of us do.
- Rivals like Russia and China cannot match our influence around the world unless we betray our constitution and become just another big country that bullies other smaller countries in the world.
- Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.
- When Congress is dysfunctional, we should draw our districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes.
- America is no fragile thing. But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured.
- Our democracy…needs you. Not just when there’s an election…but over the full span of a lifetime.
- Michelle, over the past 25 years, you have not only been my wife and the mother of my children… you have also been my best friend.
- A new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model.
- 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
- Joe Biden, the scrappy kid from Scranton who became Delaware’s favorite son: you were the first decision I made as a nominee and the best
- Not just because you have been a great Vice President, but because in the bargain, I gained a brother
- All of you out there every one of you every American who lived and breathed the hard work of change… you are the what makes America great.
- My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you.
- Thank you. God bless you. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.
What next for Obama?
As his time in the White House comes to an end, what will Obama do to fill his time? Golf? Teaching? Running an NBA team? Harriet Alexander looks at what the future holds for the outgoing president.
Mr Obama’s next few years will be far more challenging that he had imagined – following his direct predecessor George W Bush into quiet retreat with his watercolours will not be an option.
The outgoing president announced before the election that he would remain in Washington, until his youngest daughter Sasha finishes school in 2019. The Obamas will live in the Kalorama neighborhood, in a Tudor-style home rented from Bill Clinton’s former press secretary, and will become the first First Family to remain in the capital since Woodrow Wilson was president.
Yet where he was once expected to take a quiet, “elder statesman” role, he is now likely to be far more involved than he had imagined – given both Mr Trump’s polemic policy agenda, and the flailing Democrat party left after Mrs Clinton’s defeat.