In Final Speech, Obama Highlights Progress, Calls For Americans To Unify

"Regardless of the station we occupy, we have to try harder."

During his final speech as President Barack Obama listed some of his proudest achievements and made a final call for Americans to believe that they can change their country.

Obama delivered the speech in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois to raucous cheers and several standing ovations. At one point, he made his older daughter Malia cry as he complimented his wife, the first lady.


The president and his daughter during a state dinner. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

"For now, whether you're young or young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your president — the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago," he told the crowd. "I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change — but in yours."

Most of his speech centered on preserving America's democracy and unifying the country. His calls for continued change and progress echoed campaign promises made in 2008.

"If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history... if I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran's nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, and take out the mastermind of 9/11... if I had told you that we would win marriage equality, and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens — you might have said our sights were set a little too high."

Obama also emphasized that his administration ended state-sponsored torture, worked to close Guantanamo Bay, and has overseen a drop in poverty and an increase in wages for every race and gender. Despite that progress, he acknowledged the country has work to do. He pleaded with Americans to leave their bubbles and to get involved if they feel there is something wrong. 

Obama speaking at the University of Kansas in 2015. David Peterlin /

He asked that all Americans take the time to put themselves in other people's shoes.

"For white Americans, it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn't suddenly vanish in the '60s; that when minority groups voice discontent, they're not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness," he said.

Perhaps most importantly, the president called on Americans to assume the best of each other, and offer the same kind of respect to each other that we'd want for ourselves and our children.

"So regardless of the station we occupy, we have to try harder," he said. "Start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own."


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