On January 20, after eight years in office, President Barack Obama, his wife, Michelle, daughters, Malia and Sasha, and dogs, Bo and Sunny, will leave the White House to President-elect Donald Trump. In his January 10 farewell address, the US leader reflected on his legacy and encouraged Americans to remain optimistic about the country’s future.
In a nod to the people of Illinois who first elected him senator in 1997, Obama chose to deliver his final address as the 44th President from Chicago, instead of the White House. During his 50-minute speech, frequently interrupted by chants of “four more years” from the audience, the outgoing commander-in-chief emphasized the need to address inequality and embrace unity as our nation becomes increasingly diverse.
He reminded Americans that democracy was about more than voting at the presidential election; it was about affecting change in everyday life and letting their voices be heard. Obama also spoke of the importance of approaching issues like climate change with science and reason and urged youngsters to find solutions, rather than dealing with the aftermath. The outgoing president urged every American to be “anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy.” He also reminded the audience that no one is more American than anyone else, saying, “(We) all share the same, proud title, the most important office in a democracy: Citizen.”
President Obama, the first African-American US president, who entered the White House in 2008 on a platform of “hope and change,” fulfilled many of his campaign promises, both domestically and internationally. During his tenure, the country was able to emerge from a painful nationwide recession and millions of Americans finally had access to what should be a basic right - healthcare.
The first US President to win a Nobel Peace Prize (2009) while in office, Obama was just as effective overseas. He led the charge to the signing of a historic nuclear deal with Iran as well as the landmark Paris agreement to curb greenhouse gases. Since 2015, Obama has also been trying to normalize the strained relations between the US and Cuba.
While Obama will certainly be remembered for these achievements, what Americans and people all over the world will probably miss the most is how he “humanized” the presidency. He was warm, inviting, and fun — a word that would never come to mind when talking about any other world leader. After all, what other president would try to outdo McKayla Maroney’s famous scowl, take the mannequin challenge, or skateboard across the White House hallways?
Of course, much of the credit for keeping the President grounded can be given to his equally down-to-earth wife Michelle, and two beautiful girls, Malia and Sasha. The First Lady, who in her own farewell address on January 6, urged youngsters to be strong and educated so that they could someday help lead the nation, was a fantastic role model for young women everywhere. She was strong, smart, had a great sense of humor, and an even better sense of style.
It was thanks to Michelle that despite living in the White House fishbowl, Malia and Sasha led a somewhat normal life. Like all teenagers, they had to observe curfews and perform chores to earn their allowance! The girls’ conventional upbringing was recently highlighted after it was revealed that Sasha had to miss her dad’s farewell speech in Chicago to prepare for an important test!
America’s favorite first family will leave the White House on Friday and move into a rental just two miles away, where they will remain until Sasha graduates high school in 2019. We wish them the best and hope their transition from the world stage to a more normal life, will be seamless.
Resources: whitehouse.gov, cnn.com, pbs.org.