Speed Reads

obama farewell address

In farewell address, Obama says the American people 'made me a better man'

President Obama delivered his farewell address Tuesday night at Chicago's McCormick Place in front of 20,000 people and millions more watching at home.

He opened his speech by telling the American people that his conversations "in living rooms and schools, on farms and factory floors, diners and on distant military outposts" are "what have kept me honest and kept me inspired and kept me going. Every day I have learned from you — you made me a better president and you made me a better man." He touched on highlights of his presidency — taking out Osama bin Laden, an increase in wages and incomes and home values, marriage equality, and securing the right to health insurance for 20 million Americans. "That's what we did, that's what you did, you were the change," he said. "Because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started."

Obama praised the men and women in the military, saying it's been the "honor of my lifetime" to serve as commander in chief, as well as intelligence workers and diplomats, mentioning that no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on the homeland over the past eight years. "Although Boston and Orlando and San Bernardino and Fort Hood remind us about how dangerous radicalization can be, our law enforcement agencies are more effective and vigilant than ever," he said. "No one who threatens America will ever be safe."

Obama promised to ensure the "peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected president to the next," and reminded the crowd that "our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it's really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power — with our participation, and the choices we make. Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms. Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law." He implored citizens to always vote, and never stop expanding democracy and human rights around the world. "Rivals like Russia or China cannot match our influence around the world — unless we give up what we stand for, and turn ourselves into just another big country that bullies smaller neighbors," he said. Obama said when he's a private citizen again, he will still serve, and asked Americans to "believe, not in my ability to bring about change — but in yours." Read his entire speech here. Catherine Garcia