Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek
– Barack Obama, 2008
In his finest moments and even at his worst, Barack Obama, as the President of the United States of America, has managed to capture our hearts, and not when he’s spent his time in the oval office of the White House, but rather every time he delivered a speech.
His farewell address which he gave in Chicago (where he launched his political career and met his wife, Michelle) on Tuesday, 10 January, was no exception. He might have been talking to American citizens but the whole world was listening to a man who represented not just the “American dream” but the beginning of a post-racial America.
“Yes, we can!” “Yes, we did!”
With that inflection and certain pauses that make you want to completely understand what Obama’s is saying.
He called for the citizens to uphold the American constitution and called for unity.
“… we, the people, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union.”
Highlighting on some his success, Obama touched on the recession, health care, respect for privacy, improved relations with Cuba; issues many felt were way too high to be accomplished.
Imploring the American public to move outside the “bubble” of social media, Obama encouraged people to know each other better.
“For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighbourhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. The rise of naked partisanship, increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste—all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable. And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there.”
Which is quite understandable as the “internet of things” becomes a new feature in our lives and our opinions are shaped by “single” stories based on the little or too much that is unfiltered and we interact with.
“If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try to talk with one in real life.”
But it would not have been a complete speech without reference to his family and of course amazing partner of 25 years, first lady, Michelle Obama.
“Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, girl of the south side, for the past 25 years, you have not only been my wife and mother of my children, you have been my best friend. You took on a role you didn’t ask for and made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humour. A new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. You’ve made me proud. You’ve made the country proud.”
He did get emotional, taking a handkerchief to dab a tear, even as an 18,000 crowd audience cheered wildly.
Eight years ago, America elected its first African American president – it was a defining moment for many – I remember gleefully chanting “yes, we can” in Lagos, in a room full of friends, our smiles and laughter holding hope.
And now that he leaves the office, I feel the Obamas should start schooling world leaders in the art of speech giving, I’ll gladly spearhead that campaign.
It might be slow to dawn on us, maybe too soon but you can be sure that Obama is definitely going to be heralded as among the greatest presidents in America’s history.
Read a full text of President Barack Obama’s speech here.
Watch the video of President Barack Obama’s farewell speech below: