Obama touts values in farewell speech

January 11, 2017

Barack Obama will give his final speech as President of the United States in Chicago.

In his parting message, US President Barack Obama is to delcare his continued faith in the ability of all Americans to bring about powerful national change, despite the trials of the last eight years that so often stood between him and his goals.

Obama, who is due to give his final speech in Chicago, planned to reflect on his origins as a community organiser who witnessed "the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss."

He argues change is only possible "when ordinary people get involved" and join forces to demand progress.

"After eight years as your president, I still believe that," Obama says in excerpts of his speech released in advance by the White House. "And it's not just my belief. It's the beating heart of our American idea - our bold experiment in self-government."

Obama returned to the city that launched his unlikely political career to bring his eight years as president to a close. His speech at Chicago's McCormick Place will be his last chance to try to define what his presidency meant for America.

It's a fitting bookend to what he started in Chicago. It was here 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.

In his speech, Obama planned to invoke the Declaration of Independence's teachings about equality and unalienable rights, and its challenge to Americans to take it upon themselves to defend those rights and improve America's democracy.

"This is the great gift our Founders gave us," Obama planned to say. "The freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat, toil, and imagination - and the imperative to strive together as well, to achieve a greater good."

Obama has said he's leaving his eight years in office still confident that the democratic system responds when dedicated citizens make their voices heard. 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.

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