President Obama’s Farewell Address

January 11, 2017

In a powerful farewell address to the nation, President Barack Obama said the “most important office in our democracy” is that of citizen. During his speech, as expected, he also highlighted some of the top accomplishments of his administration.

Obama’s final speech was an introspective look at the way we have handled our democracy as well as securing our country from international threats. As citizens, we have spoken past one another, rather than to each other; we have not listened to the plight of those who don’t walk in our shoes; and, when our elected officials cater to rigid extremes rather than common sense, it is our democracy that is threatened.

His farewell address was a reminder and a call to action for every citizen to be an active participant in the democratic system. We cannot retreat from working to ensure our values, principles and rights are secured for all Americans. As the President stated, “democracy does not mean conformity,” but it does mean that we rise and fall as one -- so, the way we handle and engage tests to our democracy will determine our prosperity and our future.

Some of those tests will include the way we treat each other as Americans -- whether born here, immigrated or sought asylum in this country -- we must be able to pay attention and listen to the struggles of all Americans to preserve our democracy and not resign to self-alienation. We must reject discrimination, and not for the sake of demanding special treatment, but for the pursuit of America’s greatest value: equality under the law.

Ultimately, one of the biggest threats to our democracy is when we take it for granted. President Obama’s message last night was a reminder to all that the state of our democracy is in our hands. It was a warning that the disillusioned masses and division will grow if we don’t work together to ensure a prosperous America for all.

His speech was a message to President-elect Trump as well: as we look back at the last eight years and think about the progress we’ve made as a nation, we must also move forward with a renewed sense of commitment to being active citizens and working to preserve our democratic values. We will not let hate, intolerance to dissent or intolerance to freedom of thought to threaten our democracy.

Last night, Obama set an ambitious agenda working for social justice, environmental and national security, and racial equality, as he sets out in his next powerful role: citizen. 

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