Obama Returning to Chicago for Farewell Speech
By: Defender Contributing Writer Erick Johnson
He kicked of his historic term in the White House in Chicago. Now, President Barack Obama will end his career in the Oval Office with a farewell speech Jan. 10 at the McCormick Place.
At noon Jan. 20, Obama’s term will officially end as President-elect Donald Trump takes office after an inauguration that will be under heavy security. As part of tradition, the Obamas will take a helicopter from the White House after the new president and first lady bid them farewell.
Obama’s farewell speech at McCormick Place is expected to draw hundreds of supporters, many of whom still remember Obama’s moving speech in Grant Park on Nov. 4, 2008, the night Chicago propelled him to become the nation’s first Black president. That night emotions and expectations ran high as the nation saw for the first time a Black president who promised hope and opportunity to a country that had grown weary under the administration of President George W. Bush. Ironically, that weariness is returning as Obama leaves office and Trump prepares to usher in an era with a conservative cabinet and Republican Congress who have vowed to reverse some of Obama’s most significant legislation.
Still, Obama remains hopeful as he prepares to address the nation at McCormick Place, where he celebrated his re-election victory with a massive rally in 2012.
“On Tuesday, January 10, I’ll go home to Chicago to say my grateful farewell to you, even if you can’t be there in person,” Obama said in a statement. “I’m just beginning to write my remarks. But I’m thinking about them as a chance to say thank you for this amazing journey, to celebrate the ways you’ve changed this country for the better these past eight years, and to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here.
Not Moving to Chicago
Throughout his presidency, Obama made several trips to Chicago for fundraising campaigns, conferences and personal matters. He and his wife, first lady Michelle, are not planning on returning to their home in Hyde Park when they leave office. Instead, the couple will stay in an affluent neighborhood in Washington as their daughter Sasha finishes high school in the nation’s capital. Michelle’s mother, Marian Shield Robinson, will return to Chicago, but it’s not clear where she will live.
Meanwhile, the Obama Foundation prepares to begin building the $100 million Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.
As Obama’s career as president draws to a close, he leaves a nation that bounced back from a brutal recession that began under the Bush administration. With the economy humming and unemployment at low levels in most states, there is concern in Black America that civil rights will take a step backward under Trump and the Republican majority both in the House and Senate.
Despite heavy opposition in the Washington, Obama made significant strides as he saved a country that was on the brink of collapse. His Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, is considered his signature legislation that provided health coverage for 22 million Americans who have not received the benefit with their pre-existing medical conditions. Trump has vowed to repeal the legislation.
Obama was also praised for making historical appointments in Washington in areas where Blacks were traditionally left out. Under his presidency, Obama appointed Eric Holder as the nation’s first Black attorney general, who was succeed by Loretta Lynch, the first female Black attorney general. He also put two new liberals on the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
Throughout his term, Obama gained admiration for maintaining a cool demeanor as he faced a tough Congress and conservative politicians who many say never gave the president a chance to govern the nation like his predecessors. Many Black leaders and Democrats continue to believe racism was a factor that kept the Harvard Law School graduate from reaching his full potential as the most powerful leader in the world.
But as he bailed out the crippled auto industry and big banks from a mortgage crisis that led to millions of foreclosures and bankruptcies, many Black Americans across the country remained unemployed and the gap between the poor and affluent widened as the country rebounded. For this reason, Obama has been criticized as a leader whose polices have fallen short in helping the poor and people of color who turned out in record numbers to elect him president.
The sobering reality has disillusioned many Black millennials, many of whom supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during the primaries.
As his legacy comes into question by political analysts, Obama leaves office positive and upbeat.
“Since 2009, we’ve faced our fair share of challenges, and come through them stronger. That’s because we have never let go of a belief that has guided us ever since our founding — our conviction that, together, we can change this country for the better. So I hope you will join me one last time.”