Barack Obama marked the end of his presidency with the same message of hope that brought him into the White House, asking Americans in his farewell address to stay committed to democratic values and persist in their optimism for change.
From his adopted hometown of Chicago, the city where the outgoing President found purpose in public life, Obama on Tuesday called on the country to be “anxious, jealous guardians of democracy”.
Though Americans have largely grown more cynical about politics during his time in the White House, the outgoing President nonetheless continued to insist that change results 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,” Obama told the American people in a large convention hall a few blocks from Grant Park, where he spoke to supporters on the night of his historic election in 2008.
The speech also reflected the unique situation Obama will confront as he leaves office. At just 55, he is preparing for an active post-presidency in which he will champion many of the same core issues he worked on in the White House, including minority rights and opportunities for young people.