President Barack Obama's Farewell Address

At his farewell address in Chicago, President Obama shares reflections on the accomplishments of his administration and thoughts on the challenges ahead.
59:38 | 01/11/17

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Transcript for President Barack Obama's Farewell Address
Good evening and welcome to our coverage of president Obama's farewell to the nation in these final days in the second term. It's an American tradition dating back to our first president that George Washington never actually delivered his speech is published in the newspapers. More recent presidents has spoken from the Oval Office or east room of the White House. President Obama doing in his own way from his hometown of Chicago before a crowd of thousands you see them right there. Our Tom iams is on the scene McCormick place with a presence celebrated his reelection. In 2012 good evening Tom. George good evening to you President Obama said he wanted to speech here because this is where it all started for him. Where he went from a community organizer to the highest office in the world at this crowd behind me is very fired up they'd been dancing they'd been shouting. There's 20000 people here an estimated 40000 people here many of them waiting for hours. Temperatures just to get a ticket for tonight George. President did not get the outcome he wanted in November right now enjoying some of the highest approval ratings of his presidency. His aides say that this speech tonight is going to be a call to action. Harking back to his days of community organizer. In this city of Chicago. Now President Obama. Ladies and gentlemen please welcome. The 44 president of the United States. 2000. No decision. Probable candidate. Who 2006. Stayed pretty farfetched students saved after seeing. Picks were finally back to always be first African American friends. And I. Okay. Okay. Fifteenth it. A ticket for. Some trends won't newsroom. They all. You you. You can tell them. It's nobody's calling instructions. Okay. I. Day and have been so touched. All the well wishes that we've received over the past few weeks. But. Tonight. Tonight it's my turn to say things. A. Or really agreed at all. My conversations what you the American people. And living rooms schools. Farms. On factory floors. Diners. And on distant military outposts. Those conversations are what that kept me honest. And kept me inspired. And Kevin goal. And every day I have learned from you. You may be a better president. And you may be a better man. But 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 the church groups in the shadows of close steel mills. It was on these streets were eyewitness. The power play. And the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle. And well. And do the. How this is worth. The change only after. When ordinary people get them all and they get engaged. And they come together to demand. After eight years as your president I still believe that. I just my boy. It's the beating heart of our American idea. Our bold experiment in self government. It's a conviction that we are all created it. Endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights. Among them life liberty. In the pursuit of happiness. It's the insistence that these lights. Wall self evident. Have never been self executing. That we. The people. Through the instrument up our democracy. Can form a more perfect June. What a radical idea. The great gift. What our founders gave to us. The freedom to chase our individual dreams tour sweat and toil. And imagination. End the imperative this flag together as well. To achieve a common good a greater good. For 240 years. Our nation's call to citizenship. Has given war and purpose to each new generation. It's what led patriots to choose republic over terror. Pioneers to track west. Slaves to brave bad. Makeshift royal road to freedom. What pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans. And the real greater. It's what bush when. To organize. I. Like GI's gave their lives. At Omaha Beach. We were Jim. Iraq. And Afghanistan. And why men and women from Selma. To Stonewall we're prepared to give players as well. Mean when we say America's exceptional. Our nation's been flawless from the start but what we. Have shown the capacity to change. And makes life better. For those who fall. Yes our progress has been. And eat. The working democracy has always been hard it's always been contentious. Sometimes it's been bloody. For every two steps forward. Often feels. We take one step back. But the long sweep of America has ever been defined by forward motion. Constantly widening of our founding free. To embrace all but. Not just don't. If I told you were eight years ago. That America would reverse a Great Recession. Read booed our auto industry. And unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history. Open up a new chapter. For the Cuban people. Shut down Iran's nuclear. A its a. Mother says. As sleds were said Lopes who want. It's what we did. The a. Where the change. Answer people's hopes. And because of you by almost every measure. America's a better stronger place than it was when we start. In ten aces. The world will witness a hallmark. Our democracy. The peace bulls and transfer of power. From one. Freely elected president of the next. Let's talk of my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition. Just as President Bush. Did for me. It's up to all of us. To make sure our government. Can help us meet the many challenges we still face. We have what we need to do so. We have everything we need to meet those challenges after all we remain the wealthiest most powerful. The most respected nation. Are you. Are drive. Our diversity and all amounts are boundless capacity for risk and reinvention. Means that the future should be arms. But that potential will only be realized. If our democracy works. Only if our politics. Better reflects the decency. Of our people. Regardless of party affiliation or particular interest. Help restore the sense of common purpose. We so badly need right now. That's why don't focus on tonight. The state of our democracy. Understand. Democracy does not require uniformity. Our founders argue they quarreled it eventually they compromise. They expected us to do the same. But they knew. Look and. A basic sense of solidarity. The idea that for all our outward differences. We're all in this together. That we rise or fall as one. There have been moments throughout our history. Won't threaten. That's all of their. The beginning of this century has been one of those times. A shrinking world's. Growing inequality. Demographic change in the Specter of terrorism these horses haven't just test of our security. Our prosperity. But are testing our democracy is well. And how we meet. These challenges for democracy. Will determine our ability to educate our kids and pretty good jobs. And protect our homeland and in other words it will determine our future. To begin what our democracy won't work without a sense that everyone has economic opportune. And the good news is that today the economy going again. Wages incomes home values and retirement accounts are all rising again poverty is falling again. The wealthier man a fish. Share of taxes. Even as the stock market chatter as Rutgers. The unemployment rate is near a tenure law. The uninsured rate has never ever been. Arriving at the slowest rate in fifty years. And I said and I'm me. If anyone can put together a plan that is demonstrably better. Then the improvements we've made your health care system that covers as many people have left off. Not to score points and take credit. But to make people's lives better. For all the real progress we've made. We know it's not enough. Our economy doesn't work as well or grow as fast one if you prosper at the expense of a growing middle class. And letters for folks who want to get in the middle class. That's the economic argument but stark and equality is also corrosive to our democratic. ID. While the top 1% has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income. To many of our friends. In inner cities and in rural counties. Have been left behind. The lid off back to work. The waitress or health care worker who's just barely getting by and struggling to pay the bills. Convinced that the game is fixed against the government only serves the interest of the powerful that's a rusty for more cynicism. And polarization our politics. And there are no quick fixes to this long term trend. I agree our trade should be fair and not just for. But the next wave of the economic dislocations won't come from overseas. It will calm from the relentless pace of automation that makes a lot of good middle class jobs obsolete. And so we're gonna have to forge a new social compact. To guarantee all our kids' education they need to. To get more proof. Update the social safety. What the way we live now. And make more reforms the tax coastal corporations and individuals who reap the most from this new economy don't. Aboard their obligations to the country that's made their very success possible. We can argue about how to best achieve these goals. But we can't be complacent. About the goals themselves. For if we don't create opportunity for all people. The disaffection. And division that has stalled all progress will only sharpened. In your succumb. There's a second threat to our democracy. And this one is as old as our nation itself. After my election there was talk of a post racial America. And such a vision. However well intended. It was never realized. Race remains a potent. And often do this of course in our society. Now I've lived long enough to know that. Race relations are better than they were ten or twenty or thirty years ago no matter what some folks life. To sit in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum. Or not where we need to be. And all of us have more work to do. If every. Economic issues this claim as they struggle between the hardworking white middle class and an undeserving. Minority. Then. Workers of all shaves are going to be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy would drop further and other private off. Best of the children of immigrants just because they don't look like gods. We will diminish the prospects. Of our own children because those brown kids were. Larger and larger share. We have no. It doesn't have to be a zero sum game. Last year incomes rose and for all races. All age groups for men and four women. Sobel miniseries about race going forward. We named uphold laws against discrimination in hiring. And then have. But laws alone won't be enough. Parks must change. There won't change overnight. Social attitudes. Oftentimes take generations to change but if our democracy is to work. The way it should in this increasingly diverse nation. And each one of us. Need to try to heed the advice of a great character of American fiction Atticus Finch. Who says. I understand the person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb into his skin and walk around and for blacks and other minority groups that means tying on our own them very real struggles for justice. The challenges but a lot of people in this country thanks. Not only the refugees. Were the immigrant or the role for or the transgender Americans but also the middle aged white guy. Who from the outside. May seem like he's got advantages but. Has seen his world up ended by economic and cultural and technological change. We have to pay attention. And listen. For white Americans it means acknowledging bad. The effects of slavery and Jim broad and suddenly vanish in the sixties. Voice discontent there are not just engaging in reverse racism or. Practicing political correctness. When they wait peaceful protests that are not demanding special treatment but equal treatment that are founder of it means reminding ourselves that the stereotypes about immigrants today. Get. Were set up almost word for word about the Irish. Italians. And poles. Who was said word go to him destroy. The fundamental character of America. And as it turned out American wasn't weakened by the presence of these newcomers. These newcomers embrace this nation's created. And this nation will strengthen. So. Regardless. Of the station that we occupy. We all have to try harder. We all have to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens. Loves this country just as much as we do. That they value hardworking family just like we do. That their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love. As our own. And that's not easy to build. For too many of us. It's become safer to retreat into oral bubbles. Weather and our neighborhoods. Or on college campuses. Or places of worship. Or specially our social media feeds. Surrounded by people who look like some. Share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. Verizon naked partisanship. Increasing economic and regional strategy vacation. The splendor of our media and a channel for every taste. All this. Makes this great sorting it seemed natural. Even evident. And increasingly we've become so secure in our bubbles. That we started something only information whether it's true or not that fits our opinions. Instead of basing our opinions. On the evidence that a. It's a third threat to our democracy. What politics is a battle of my views. That's our democracy was designed. In the course of a healthy debate we prioritize different goals and the different means of reaching. But without some common baseline of facts. Without a willingness to admit new information. And concede that your opponent. Might be making a fair point. And that science and reason not matter that were. Compromise. And isn't that part of what. So often makes. Politics dispiriting. How could elected officials rage about deficits when we propose to spend money on. Preschool for kids but not while more cutting taxes for corporations. Excuse ethical lapses in our own party but helps when the other party does the same thing. It's not just dishonest. This selective sword and it affects. It's self defeating. Because. As my mom used to tell me. Reality has aware catching up with the. Take the challenge of climate change. In just eight years we've had our dependence on foreign oil. We've doubled our renewable energy we've led the world to an agreement that the promises. Without bolder action. Our children won't have time to debate the existence of climate change. Nobody busy dealing with its effects. More environmental disasters more economic disruptions waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary. Now we will. And should argue about the best approach to solve the problem. But to simply denied the problem. Not only Petraeus future generations. It betrays the essential spirit. Of this come from the essential spirit of innovation. And practical problem solving that guided our founders. That spirit born of the enlightenment. The medicine economic powerhouse. The spare the took flight at kitty hawk and Cape Canaveral. The spirit cures disease. And put a computer in every pop. If that's your. A faith in reason. And enterprise. And the primacy of right over Mike. That allowed us to resist the lure of bashes. And tear. During the Great Depression. That allowed us to build a post World War II order with other democracies. An order based not just on military power or. National affiliations but built on principles the rule of Walt. Human rights. Freedom of religion and speech and assembly and an independent press. That order is now being challenged. First by a violent fanatics. Who claim to speak for as long. More recently by a lot of crafts and foreign capitals who seek free markets and open democracies and civil society itself. As a threat to their pollen. Apparel each poses to our democracy. There's more far reaching the car bomb or missile. They represent the fear of change. The fear of people who look or speaker prayed different. A contempt for the rule of law that holds leaders accountable. And intolerance of dissent. I'm freefall. The belief that sword. Or gun or the bomb. Or the propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what's true and what's right. Because of the extraordinary courage of our men and women in uniform. Because of our intelligence officers and law enforcement. And diplomats who support our troops. The successful. We planned and executed an attack on our homeland these past eight years. An Orlando. December they don't. And Fort Hood. Remind us of how dangerous radicalization can be. Our law enforcement agencies are more effective and vigilant about. We have taken out tens of thousands of terrorists including been locked. The rating against Marshall was taken out releases. Taking away about half their territory. I saw will be destroyed and no one. Who threatens America will ever be sent. Or have sold it has been the honor of my lifetime to be your commander in chief. Protecting our way of life that's not just the job of our military. Democracy can bottle. When it gives in to fear. So just as we. As citizens. Must remain vigilant against external aggression. We must guard against a weakening of the values that. Make us who we are. That's why for the past eight years. At work to put the fight against terrorism. On a former legal foot that's why we've ended torture worked to close gitmo. Reformed our laws governing surveillance to protect privacy. That's why I reject. Discrimination against Muslim Americans. Could drop from big global flights. To expand democracy and human rights and women's rights and LG BT rights. No matter how imperfect though after. No matter how its median ignoring. Such values may soon. That's part of defending America. For the fight against extremism. And intolerance. And sectarianism. And chauvinism. Arba peace with the fight against authoritarianism. And nationalistic Russian. If the scope of freedom and respect. For the rule of law shrinks around the world. The likelihood of war within and between nations increase. And our own freedoms will eventually be threatened. So let's be vigilant but not afraid. I saw we'll try to. But they cannot defeat America unless we between our constitution and our principles in the fight. Rivals like Russia or China. Cannot match our influence around the world on less. We give up what we stand for. And turn ourselves. Into just another big country of the bully smaller neighbors. Which brings me to my final point. Our democracy. Our democracy is threatened. Whenever we take it for Brent. All of the. Regardless of party. Should be throwing ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic. Institutions. In America some of the lowest among advanced democracies we should be making it easier not harder to vote. We should reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics. And insist on the principle. Entry and ethics in public service. When congress is dysfunctional. We should draw our congressional districts to encourage politicians. To cater to common sense. Athens on its own. All of this depends. On our participation. On each no must accepting the responsibility. Of citizenship. Regardless of which way the pendulum of power happens to be swing. Our constitution. Is a remarkable. Beautiful gift. But it's really. Just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We the people. Give it power. Participation. Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law. That's up to us. America's no fragile thing but the gains of our long journey to freedom. I'm not a short. In his own farewell address. George Washington wrote that self government is the underpinning of our safety. Prosperity and liberty. From different causes. And from different quarters. Much pains will be today to weaken in your minds the conviction of this true. And so. We have to preserve this troops win over jealous anxiety. That we should reject the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest. Or ten people this sick. As we weaken those times when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive. The people of good character. Raymond Roy manner in the public service. So course with ranked. Americans with whom we disagree. Are seen not just as misguided but as malevolent. We weaken those times when we've defined some of us as more American than others. What we write off the. And. And when we. And blame the leaders reelect. Without examining our own role in electing them. It falls to each of us to be. Those anxious. Jealous guardians. Of our democracy a. To embrace the joyous task we've been given. To continually. Slide improved this praised nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences. We in fact. All share the same proud to. The most important. Office of democracy. Service. So you saved. That's. What our democracy demands. It needs you me. Not just when there is little action. Not just when your own narrow interests is at stake. But over the full span of a lifetime. If you're tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet. Try it. Talking would one of them in real life. The self image actually. And lace up your shoes and do some organized. Biden are elected officials. Grab a clip board did some signatures and run for office. Not within. Stay added. Sometimes you'll win. Sometimes a little. Presuming. A reservoir of good news and other people beckon their risk. And there will be times when the process will disappoint. But for most of us fortunate enough to have been part of this war and to see it up close let me tell you. They can energize and inspire. And more often than not your faith in America. And in Americans will be confirmed. My insurer has been. Years. I see in the hopeful faces of young graduates. And our newest military officers. I have more and where. Grieving families. Searching for answers. And found race. And Charleston church. I've seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regained his sense of touch. I've seen wounded warriors. Who. At points were given up for dead walk again. I've seen our doctors and volunteers rebuild after reports and stop him gimmicks in their tracks. I've seen the youngest of children. Remind us through their actions and through their generosity. Of our obligations to care for refugees. Or work for peace. And above all to look out. For each other. Left faith that I placed all those years ago not far from here. In the power of ordinary Americans to bring about change. Faith has been rewarded in ways I could not have possibly match. And I hope your faith has to. Some of you here tonight or watching at home. There where this. In 2004. And 2008. Maybe you still can't believe we pulled this whole thing off. When it's not you're not the only ones. I assume. Girl of the. For the past 45 years you have not only been. My wife and mother of my children who have been my best friend. You took on the role even asks full. And you made your own. With grace and would grip on the. And I. I. Why does he plays it belongs to everybody. Generations sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. Malia. And slash U. Under the strain has the circumstances. You have become too amazing young women. Love smaller annual beautiful but more importantly you archive and looked thoughtful and you are full of passion. More of the burden. Years in the spotlight. So easily. Of all but I've done in my life. I'm most proud to be your day. Decision I made every nominee. We'll because of the bargain I gained a brother. I love you and Jill like family and your friendship has been one of the great joys of our lives. Remarkable spent. For eight years. And from some of you a whole lot more. I have drawn from your energy. And every day I tried to reflect back what huge display. Heart. And character. And idealism. I watch you grow up. Get married had kids. Start incredible. Journeys of your own. Even when times got tough and frustrating you never let Washington. Get the better. You guarded against citizens. The only thing that makes me prouder that all the good that we've done. Is the thought. All the amazing things that you are managing for me. Every organizer who moved to him unfamiliar town. Every. Welcome the men. Every volunteer who knocked on doors every young person who cast a ballot for the. Because you did. No. We started. Because I know our work has not only helped. So many Americans it has inspired. So many Americans especially so many young people out there. The movie you can make it there. The hit show wagon to something bigger than yourself. I'm excited this generation coming up unselfish. Altruistic creative. Patriotic. I've seen you in every corner of the country. Even a live and just an inclusive America. My fellow Americans. It has been the honor of my life to certain. I won't step. Cool. Well whether you are young. Or whether you're young at heart. I do have one final lasted. You as your present. The same thing I asked when he took a chance on me eight years ago. I'm asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change but in yours. I'm asking you to hold fast to that they've written a northbound and doctor. That idea whisper. What slave and abolitionist. That spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders. And those who marched for justice. Like free reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon. A created the core of every American's story is not yet written. This week you. We're a. And Obama. Who it was his last formal address as president putting his distinctive stamp. I'm an American tradition. Villagers are like any other we've ever seen before a hybrid really. Part campaign speech part state of the union. Sermon on democracy. A song of gratitude and hope. There's no loan on that stage now we'll soon be joined. In the first laid most emotional moment the speech. When you thank you the First Lady for the example she has said. Think he's proud over the country should be proud of her. Joseph Biden. The spend nights there. Okay they've been. Opposites really. Bruce Springsteen in the background and John Karr. This speech so distinctly Obama in some ways of bookend to that first speech he gave it. Mention Democratic Convention introduced him to so many back in 2004 we've talked about the values. Could bind us together this one included. A strong. Of the forces that drive us. You've heard a form of the optimist. Obama. Hoping to achieve. Your mom of 2000. For 2008. What you want to this speech you heard. Obama the wheels. He told you last week George. Did this once sentence historians will say about him when he hopes that he believed deeply in American democracy in this speech you saw. He also believes right now that American democracy is under assault. And he was part warning warning of racial division economic inequality. Hopefully they talk about that realistically can kids who also said that vision of a post racial America. Many had when he got to look who is not realistic. Can you see here you saw on edge there we talked about about race he said people lose. This race relations are better America right now the war in the last 102030 years as you know many Americans a majority of African Americans right now don't believe that. The price to answer depends on where in the country are new age if African American more pride in 97 he noted America's better place. The pistons spent more time. Race in the first another topic speech close to eight minutes. He says the race remains a potent and often divisive force all of this and we'll. And Martha Raddatz achieve global affairs anchor president also talked about the victories over seas and gratitude. The military and those who served our country. And military might has made the difference in the world but also made that important point is come back to so many times in his presidency. That we cannot be traded to power by example that matters you can not betray our values. And and that the United States cannot be a boy. He talked about Russia he talked about there's this Jorge to meet did not seem like the farewell address he called it a hybrid. It was more of a rallying cry. Cried he was preaching to the choir in that room but those admonishment. To those who were not room. We're quite clear it was very different speech than George W. Bush in 2009. His farewell address them. Obama had a lot to say. And healing there was a lot more to accomplish. Very different speech also John Carlson when Ronald Reagan did when he was leaving the stage. Where he said he was leaving them. The White House in very good. The president said he was leaving the nation good hands the hands of his young supporters. And it was those young supporters that got him elected in the first place after years election after election. Use voter turnout going down. They turned out 2008 that was the core of the Obama couldn. And it was one that didn't turn up the hill reports. We are seeing the president walk off the stage right now Tom Lamas there. In Chicago. And Tom did that was a crowd as the president said people who have been within 4812. Years. He was surrounded by love in that crash. Called the room was electric utility electric people on their feet so before flying many of them are cheering. I have to agree with Martha Raddatz is really felt like a rallied towards the crowd here came. Every single word and I got to tell you George will lives they got the most applause where the lines that were direct contrast to president elect from all of these. Lines like that's why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans if we declined would that the children of immigrants. It will not work because those round of kids who represent a larger share of America's workforce goes cut the lines got standing ovation here. Clearly the energy was felt that group head toward that bubble bubbles supporters who said this type of energy with what was lacking the Democratic Party in this last campaign. To release the energy burn pits the president tried. To tap in his very first job when went to Chicago so many years ago community organizer in those neighborhoods we stood tonight. As a president leaving the stage after two times. Custom Obama's change the psyche and just consider this Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile 1950s it never happened part of that within a year. 24 runners have done. In these eight years personal bond issue in America what's possible we'll see people like that we are now more diverse nation from top to block. He is leaving the stage now ten days left for President Obama present like front comes next. And we're gonna see presently trump tomorrow morning after GMA he has been at his first formal press conference as president elect that's at 11 eastern. Right here on ABC. For now are turning to regular programming. Have a good night.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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