In final speech, Obama must reconcile his hopes with Trump's
WASHINGTON (AP) — Now an elder statesman, Barack Obama is returning to Chicago where he launched his unlikely political career 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.
Obama's final speech as president, before thousands who will gather at McCormick Place, is his last chance to try to define what his presidency meant for America.
It's a fitting bookend to what he started eight years ago. It was in Chicago in 2008 that the nation's first black president declared victory, and where over the years he tried to cultivate his brand of optimism in American politics.
"We've run our leg in a long relay of progress, knowing that our work will always be unfinished," Obama wrote today in a Facebook post previewing his speech. "And we've reaffirmed the belief that we can make a difference with our own hands, in our own time."
Obama has said he's 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.
The system did respond, in November, to Americans who by and large rejected Obama's policies by electing Republican Donald Trump.
Obama and Democrats had warned against a Trump presidency in apocalyptic terms. So now Obama's daunting task – 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.
No stranger to high-stakes speeches, Obama rose to national prominence on the power of his oratory. But this speech is different, White House officials said.
Determined not to simply recite a history of the last eight years, Obama directed his team to craft an address that would feel "bigger than politics" and speak to all Americans – including those who voted for Trump.