If anyone was worried about President Obama going out on a negative note, that certainly did not happen during his farewell speech on Tuesday night. Individual policies — even his namesake — that make up his collective legacy may be in imminent danger, but Obama’s resolve and spirit will continue to influence America after he leaves the White House. Obama did not execute a perfect presidency, which may be an impossible feat. Yet this speech, full of hope and class, put a graceful and fitting end to his eight years in office.
The overarching theme of Obama’s speech revolved around his perspective that America’s “a better, stronger place than when we started.” Boos began when he alluded to his Republican successor, but Obama urged the “peaceful transfer of power” between elected presidents, as his predecessor did for him. He touted his presidential accomplishments, including improvements on the economy, jobs, and healthcare. On that last note, Obama lightly ribbed Republicans for the mystery of what would replace Obamacare, but he said that if anyone could improve on his plan, he would publicly support them.
With that challenge in place, Obama spoke of the “post-racial America” vision that circulated after his election, but he admitted that the full fruition of this dream may never happen. However, he believes racial relations have vastly improved, yet there’s still so much work to do. The past eight years — the past year, even — has seen an apparently accelerating level of unrest and tension on this subject, but Obama recently said that these instances are only growing more visible. And he reinforced that point tonight while also urging America to invest in children of immigrants “because those brown kids” will soon represent a great deal of the U.S. workforce.
Ultimately, Obama brought down the house when he expressed the utmost gratitude to his family. After all, the Obamas are a collective unit, and one can’t consider one family member without thinking of the rest. The president told Michelle, his “best friend,” how “you took on a role that you didn’t ask for, and you made it your own.” To his daughters, Malia and Sasha, Obama assured them that no matter what his administration has accomplished, he’s “most proud to be your dad.” And of course, Obama couldn’t end his long goodbye without a shout out to Joe Biden, who he loves like family.
Obama then promised his audience that they “would change the world,” and he is leaving the White House “even more optimistic than when we started.” Obama promised that he would continue to serve America (albeit as a citizen) for all of his remaining days. That’s a promise he fully intends to keep.