New Delhi: US President Barack Obama on Tuesday night delivered his farewell address in Chicago’s McCormick Place from where he gave his victory speech eight years back. Obama was joined by first lady Michelle Obama, daughter Malia, and vice-president Joe Biden. In his address, Obama dwelled on hsi presidential legacy and urging Americans to uphold democratic values as “anxious, jealous guardians of democracy”. He also pledged to continue working on various challenges in social and civic arena as a citizen.
Like his presidency, Obama’s speech has evoked sharp reactions as the outgoing president used the occasion to highlight upcoming challenges as the US ushers into a Republican presidency headed by President-elect Donald Trump who pulled a stunning victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in an election which brough to the fore America’s faultlines. Not only that, Trump has vowed to dismantle from Day One of his presidency many of Obama’s policies.
Here are some of those reactions:
■ The New York Times: “President Obama, delivering a farewell address in the city that launched his political career, declared on Tuesday his continued confidence in the American experiment. But he warned, in the wake of a toxic presidential election, that economic inequity, racism and closed-mindedness threatened to shred the nation’s democratic fabric.”
■ Chicgao Tribune: In his article “Barack Obama: A good and decent man”, Rex Huppke says, “Obama made mistakes, large and small. He said some things I loved, and some things I hated. Much of his foreign policy was a mess. Obamacare was a grand idea poorly executed. But what I saw over eight years was a man who stood upright in an unprecedented storm of furious resistance and nastiness—much of it driven by an unwillingness in certain corners to accept the legitimacy of a black president—and rarely lose composure.”
■ Guardian: “But while for most of the past eight years it had seemed this night would be one of joy and nostalgia, now it came with a sober note, laden with omens and warnings about a democracy under siege. Obama had hoped to be talking about passing on the baton to fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton. Instead Donald Trump’s stunning victory implied an existential threat and called for him to paint on a bigger canvas. In a “state of our democracy” speech he deftly concentrated his fire not on the president-elect but on the malaise that produce him. In 4,300 words he only mentioned Trump by name once – but delivered much by way of repudiation,” wrote David Smith.
■ Fox News: “Barack Obama ended his presidency as he began it, delivering soaring rhetoric and political pageantry that far exceeded his actual record of governance,” wrote Douglas E.Schoen in his article.
In another article in Fox News, Bill Whalen says, “As such, it was a disappointing finale to a presidency that, too often and in too many different ways, placed too high of a premium on celebrity status and cult of personality–an American colossus ruled by Narcissus.”
■ The Telegraph: “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.”
■ The Washington Post: “President Obama used his farewell speech here on Tuesday to outline the gathering threats to American democracy and press a more optimistic vision for a country that seems more politically divided than ever. Obama said goodbye to the nation against the backdrop of one of the most corrosive elections in US history and a deep sense that the poisonous political environment has pitted Americans against each other.”
■ Politico: “You don’t get change just by hoping. That was President Barack Obama’s message to his supporters and to the whole country in his farewell speech, an emotional call to action to combat what he identified as four “threats to democracy”: cracks in America’s solidarity as a nation, racial divisions that pit people against each other at the benefit of the wealthy, a retreat from facts and reasonable arguments, and an apathy toward protecting democracy.”