Shivani Saharia
Posted January 12, 2017 from India



Barack Obama rose to power as the country's first African American president with message of hope and boundless optimism for the future.

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible...who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer," he told crowds in Chicago in 2008 after winning the election.

In all the years since he never wavered from his mission to help foster in America what he once called the "renewal of morality".

Unlike Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and so many others before him, this is a president unblemished by scandal.

The president acted presidential even behind closed doors: even his closest aides fail to recall moments when Mr Obama gave way to roiling anger. Emotions have rarely muddled the academic rigor of his mind.

White House staffers have nicknamed him the 'Colombo president', after the famous television detective who always catches the killer with his questions.

So inquisitive is Mr Obama, one senior aide said, that he has changed the traditional length of memos written for a sitting president. "A science brief was placed on his desk. It had been kept to two pages as is usual," the aide said. "It came back the next day with three words written by the president in the top right hand corner: 'where's the rest?'"

It is because of this that his speech on Tuesday night was all the more remarkable: after eight years of preaching change and hope, Mr Obama ended his leadership with an urgent and fearful warning about the state of American democracy.

It was a thinly veiled slight to the divisive rhetoric of Donald Trump's election campaign, which included attacks on Muslims, the disabled, women and immigrants.

"If we don’t create opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come," Mr Obama said.

Mr Obama has been criticised by African American communities for failing to address race issues in the country during his time in office.

But in these final moments, he warned of racism as a poison to democracy. He called on African Americans and other minorities to tie their " own struggles for justice" to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face – including the middle-aged white man who "may seem like he’s got all the advantages, but who’s seen his world upended by economic, cultural, and technological change".

And he called on white Americans to acknowledge that "the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn’t suddenly vanish in the ‘60s".

Mr Obama made only passing reference to the next president. When he noted he would soon be replaced by the Republican, his crowd began to boo.

"No, no, no, no, no," Obama said. One of the nation's great strengths, he said, "is the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next."

Mr Obama may have done all he could to help the peaceful transition of power to the president-elect, but he became emotional as he prepared to pass the baton of the country he loved to a man whom he does not trust.

He became urgent, a tear in his eye, as he talked of needing to "guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are".

Brushing away tears with a handkerchief, Mr Obama paid tribute to the sacrifices made by his wife - and by his daughters, who were young girls when they entered the big white home on Pennsylvania Avenue and leave as young women.

He praised first lady Michelle Obama for taking on her role "with grace and grit and style and good humor" and for making the White House "a place that belongs to everybody."

As he prepared to step away from the stage one final time he seemed to be passing on the stewardship of America not to Mr Trump, but to the nation's people.

"It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy," he said. "Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title: Citizen."

"Ultimately, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you."

The president concluded by saying he remained hopeful about the work that a younger generation would do. "Yes we can," he said. "Yes we did."

Barack Obama posted on Twitter shortly after finishing his speech: "Thank you for everything. My last ask is the same as my first. I'm asking you to believe—not in my ability to create change, but in yours."

Comments 5

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Jill Langhus
Jan 13, 2017
Jan 13, 2017

Yes, President Obama was a legacy. I'm not only concerned about the welfare of women and minorities, but also the environment.... without a planet we have nothing:-(

Shivani Saharia
Mar 25, 2017
Mar 25, 2017

Dear Jlanghus,

The worst election results and full of disappointment.

Jill Langhus
Mar 25, 2017
Mar 25, 2017

I agree. It is illiciting a lot of change, though. I will say that. Apparently women in the U.S. are more interested in filling political roles more than ever and people are finally standing up for things they believe in, even people I know are that never were before, so that part is definitely good.

Jan 15, 2017
Jan 15, 2017

Thank you Shivani. It was a speech that brought tears to my eyes. I love your insight about passing on the stewardship of America to its people. I hope we can work together to make that happen.

Best wishes to you- Julie

Shivani Saharia
Mar 25, 2017
Mar 25, 2017

Dear JulieJ

Thanks for reading and encouraging me

looking forward to you :)


shivani saharia