Barack Obama uses final speech as president to urge Americans not to lose faith

Barack Obama is returning to Chicago for one final speech - a parting plea to Americans not to lose faith in their future, no matter what they think about their next president.

His final address as president, in the city where he launched his political career, is his last chance to try to define what his presidency meant for America.

In a Facebook post previewing his speech, which will be delivered in front of thousands in McCormick Place, Mr Obama said: "We've run our leg in a long relay of progress, knowing that our work will always be unfinished.

"And we've reaffirmed the belief that we can make a difference with our own hands, in our own time."

Mr Obama has said he is leaving his eight years in office with two basic lessons: that Americans are fundamentally good, and that change can happen.

"The system will respond to ordinary people coming together to try to move the country in a better direction," he said ahead of the speech.

During the election, Mr Obama and the Democrats warned against a Donald Trump presidency in apocalyptic terms.

His daunting task now - the closing act of his political career - is to explain how his vision of America remains relevant and achievable for Democrats in the Trump era.

Mr Obama was determined not to simply recite a history of the last eight years, and directed his team to craft an address that would feel "bigger than politics" and speak to all Americans - including those who voted for Mr Trump.

His chief speechwriter Cody Keenan started writing last month while Mr Obama was on holiday in Hawaii, handing him the first draft on the flight home.

By late Monday, Mr Obama was immersed in a fourth draft, with Mr Keenan thought to have stayed at the White House all night to help perfect the final message.

Ahead of his speech, Mr Obama acknowledged that the chaos of Washington makes it easy to lose sight of the role American citizens play in democracy.

He said that while he leaves office with his work unfinished, he believes his administration made the US "a stronger place for the generations that will follow ours".

First Lady Michelle Obama and vice-president Joe Biden will also attend the speech.

For Mr Obama, it will be his final trip aboard Air Force One as president.

Though he and his party were dealt a devastating blow in November's election, Mr Obama leaves office as a relatively popular president viewed favourably by 57% of Americans, according to an Associated Press-NORC Centre for Public Affairs Research poll released the day before his speech.

That puts him on a par with former president Bill Clinton's popularity as he left office.

Yet Americans remain deeply divided over Mr Obama's legacy, with fewer than half saying they are better off eight years later - or that Mr Obama brought the country together.

Two in three Americans said he did not keep his promises, though most of those said he had tried to do so but could not.

AP


 

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