tv President Barack Obamas Farewell Address NBC January 10, 2017 9:00pm-9:40pm EST
. >> this is an nbc news special report. president obama's farewell address, from icago, here's lester holt. >> and good evening from mccormick place convention center in chicago, from in just a moment, president obama will give his farewell address to an audience of 20,000 here and millions more watching at home. tonight, which will hear from the president in his adopted home town, reflecting on his eight years in the oval office. just a short time ago, i concluded by interview with the
president aboard air force one. later we spoke in one of his diners in hyde parg. he told me he hopes to face his challengesers from his successor, politic donald trump who takes over the office in just ten days time. i am joined here by nbc's kristen welker. kristen, on the airplane coming here today, there was a sense of nostalgia among his senior staff. >> his senior advisers toll me this is an incredibly emotional night. so many people in this crowd have supported him from the very beginning. this is the place where he calm back to celebrate his re-election four years ago. in excerpts released earlier tonight, you know he will praise the american values embodied in this city. he will say this is where he learned ordinary people can get involved and really make a change. this will not be a rebuke of donald trump. ut going to be a look 'back at eight years, a call to action. >> we know michelle obama is here.
they've just made the announ announcannounce announcement. there was an act only inm there were a lot of loyal supporters of the president here and that there would be these kind of moments as the president walked out. chuck todd is watching along with us in new york. chuck speaking to the predecessor today, he is still wrestling with the issue of his legacy and in view of the trump victor victory. >> well, lester, i think it's understandable why he is a little bit. because some stuff could get undone with the stroke of a pen within an hour that he takes the oath. >> here is the president. >> it's great to be home.
you can tell that i'm -- you can tell that, you the tell that i'm a lame duck because nobody is following instructions. everybody have a seat. my fellow americans, michelle and i have been so touched by all the well wishes that we've received over the past few weeks, but tonight, tonight it's my turn to say thanks,. whether we have seen eye to eye
or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the american people, in living rooms and in schools, at farms. on factory floors, diners and on distant military outposts, those conversations are what have kept me honest and kept me inspired and kept me going. and every day i have learned from you. you made me a better president. and you made me a better man. so i first came to chicago when i was in my early 20s and i was still trying to figure out who i was, still searching for a purpose in my life and it was a neighborhood not far from here where i began working with church groups in the shadows of closed steel mills.
witnessed the power of fate and the quiet dignitary of working people in the face of struggle and laws. i can't do that. now this is where i learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved and they get engaged. and they come together to demand it. after eight years as your president, i still believe that. and it's not just my belief. it's the beating heart of our american idea, our bold experiment in self governm
it's the conviction that we are all created equal endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. it's the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self executed. >> that we, the people, through the instrument of our democracy can form a more perfect union. what a radical idea. the great gift that our founders gave to us. the freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat and toil and imagination and the imperative to strive towing as well, to achieve a
common good, a greater good. for240 years, our nation's call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation. it's what led patriots to choose republic of tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that make shift railroad to cleveland. it's what pulled immigrants and rnls refugees across oceans and the rio grande and pushed women to reach for the battle, what powered workers to organize, it's why gis gave their lives at omaha beach and iwojima and iraq and men and women from selma and
stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well. so, so that's what we mean when we say american deception. not that our nation has been flawfrom the start but that we have shown the capity to change and make life better for those who follow. yes, our progress has been uneven. the work of democracy has always been hard. it's always been contentious. sometimes it's been bloody. for every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back. but the long sweep of america has been defined by forward motion. a constant widening of our foundi
and not just some. [ applause ] . if i had told you eight years ago, that america would reverse late in the recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest pledge of job creation in our history. if i had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the cuban people, shut down iran's nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, take out the mastermind of 9/11. if i had told you that we would win marriage equality and secure the life to have concern for
another 20 million of our fellow citizens if i had told you all that you might have said our sights were set a little too high, but that's what we did. that's what you did. you were the change. the answer to people's hopes and because of you, by almost every measure, america's a better, stronger place than it was when we started. in ten days, the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy.
no, no, no, no the peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected president to the next. [ applause ] i committed to president-elect trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition just as president bush did for me. [ applause ] because it's up to all of us to make sure our government can help us meet the many challenges we still face. we have what we need to do so. we have everything we need to meet those challenges. after all, we were made of the wealthiest, most powerful and most respected nation on earth. our youth, our drive, our diveit
boundless capacity for risk and reinvention means that the future should be ours. but that potential will only be realized if our democracy works. only if our politics better reflects the decency of our people [ applause ] only if all of us, regardless of party affiliation or particular interests help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now. that's what i want to focus on tonight. the state of our democracy. understand democracy does not require uniformity. our founders argued, they
quarrelled, eventually, they compromised. they expected us to do the same. but they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity. the idea that for all our outward differences, we're all in this together. >> that we rise or fall as one. [ applause ] there have been moments throughout our history that threatens that solidarity. in the beginning of this century has been one of those times. a shrisking world, growing inequality, demographic change in the spectre of terrorism. these forces haven't just tested
our security and our prosperity, but are testing our democracy as well. and how we meet these challenges to our democracy will determine our ability to educate our kids and create good jobs and protect our homeland. in other words, it will determine our future. to begin with, our democracy won't work without a sense that everyone has economic opportunities. and the good news is that, today the economy is growing again, wages, incomes, home value, and retirement accounts are all rising again. poverty is falling again. [ applause ] the wealthy are paying a fairer share of tax, even as the stockmarket shatters records, the unemployment rate is near a te
the uninsured rate has never ever been lower. health care costs are arriving at the slowest rate in 50 years and i've said and i moon it, if anyone can put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we've need our health care system that covers as many people at less cost, i will cover it and support it. because that, after all, is why we serve. not to score points or take credit but to make people's lives better. but for all real progress that
we've made, we know it's not enough. our economy doesn't work as well or grow as fast when a few prosper at the expense of the growing middle class and latters for those who want to get into the middle class. that's the economic argument, but start inequality is corrosive to our democratic idea. while the top 1% has amassed a bigger income. too many of our families in inner cities and in rural counties have been left behind. the laid off factory worker, the waitress or health care worker who's just barely getting by and struggling to pay the bills. convinced that the game is fixed against them. >> that their government only serves the interests of the powerful. that's a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics.
there are no quick fixs to this long-term trend. i agree, our trade should be fair and not just free. but the next wave of economic dislocations won't come from overseas, it will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes a lot of good middle class jobs obsolete. and so we're going to have to forge a new social exact to guarantee all our kids the education they need. to give workers the power to unionize for better wages, to update the social safety net to reflect way we live now. and make more reforms to the tax code so corporations and individuals who reap the most from this new economy don't avoid their obligations to the country that's made their very success possible.
we can argue about how to best achieve these goals. but we can't be complacent about the goals, themselves. for if we don't create opportunity for all people that this affection and the vision that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come. there's a second threat to our democracy and this one is as old as our nation, itself. after my election, there was talk of a post-racial america and such a vision however well intended was never realistic. race remains a potent and offering divisive course in our society. now i've lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were ten or 20
or 30 years ago, no matter what some folks say. you can see it, not just in statistics, you see it in the attitudes of young americans across the political spectrum. but we're not where we need to be. and all of us have more work to do. if every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hard working white middle class and an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps while the the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclave. if we're unwilling to invest in the children of immigrants just
because they don't look like us, we will diminish the prospects of our own children because those brown kids will represent a larger and larger share of america's work force. and we have shown that our economy doesn't have to be a zero sum game. last year incomes rose for all races, all age groups, for men and for women. so we're going to be serious about race going forward, we need to uphold laws against discrimination in hiring and in housing and in education and in the criminal justice system. >> that is what our constitution
the laws alone won't be enough. hearts must change. they won't change overnight. social attitudes oftentimes take generations to change, but if our democracy is to work the way it should in this increasingly diverse nation, then each one of us needs to try to heed the advice of a great character in american fiction, atticus finch, who said, you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. for blacks and other minority groups, that means tying our own very real struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face. not only the reasonable or the immigrant or the real poor or
also the middle aged white guy who from the outside may seem like he's got advantages, but has seen his world upended by economic and cultural and technological change. we have to pay attention and listen. for white americans, it meansing a only inning the effects of slavery and jim crowe didn't suddenly vanish in the '60s, that when minority groups voice discontent, they're not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness, when they wage peaceful protests, they're not demanding special treatment, but the equal treatment that our
founders promised. [ cheers ] for manly born americans, it means reminding ourselves about the storyio types of immigrantss today were said almost word-for-word about the irish. and italians, and pols, who it was said were going to destroy the fundamental character of marc. as it turns out, the americans weren't weakened by the presence of these newcomers. these newcomers embraced this nation's creed and this nation was strengthened. so regardless of the station that we occupy, ll
we all have to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do, that they value hard work and family just like we do, that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own. [ applause ] and that's not easy to do. for too many of us, it's become safe tore retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or on college campuses or places of worship, or especially our social media feeds. surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never
challenge our assumptions. in the rise of naked partisansh 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 start accepting only information, whether it's true or not that fits our opinions. instead of basing our opinions on the that evidence is out there. [ applause ] and this trend represents a threat to our democracy. politics is a battle of ideas. that's how our democracy was designed in the course of a
different goals and the different means of reaching them. but without some common baseline of facts, without a willingness to admit new information and concede that your opponent might be making a fair point and that science and reason matter, then we're going to keep talking past each other and we'll make common ground and compromise impossi e impossible. and isn't that part of what so often makes politics despirited? how can election officials rage about deficits when we propose to spend money on pre school for kids but not when we're carrying taxes for corporations. how do we excuse ethical lambss in our own party but counts when
the other party does the same thing? it's not just dishonest, this selected sorting of the face, it's self defeating. because as my mom used to tell me, reality has a way of catching up with you. take the challenge of climate change, in just eight years, we have our dependents on foreign oil. we've doubled our renewable energy, we've led to world to an agreement that has the promise to save this planet. but without bolder action, our children won't have time to debate the existence of climate change. they'll be busy dealing with its effects, more environmental di
disruptions. waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary. now we can and should argue about the best approach to solve the problem. but to simply design the problem, not only detrays future generations, it betrays the essential spirit of this country. the essential spirit of innovation and practical problem solving that guided our found ers it is that spirit born of the enlightenment that made us an economic power house. the spirit that took flight at kitty hawk and cape canaveral. the spirit that cures disease
and put a computer in every pocket. it's that spirit a. faith in reason and enterprise and the privacy of right over might that allowed us to resist the lure of fascism and tyranny during the great depression. >> that allowed us to build a post-world war ii order with other democracy, an order based not just on military power or national affiliationles, but built on principles, the rule of law. human rights, freedom of religion and speech and assembly and an independent press. [ applause ] that order is now being challenged. first by violent fanatics who
recently by autocrats and foreign capitals, who seek free markets and open democracies and civil society, itself, as a threat to their power. the peril each poses to our democracy is more far reaching than a car bomb or a missile. they represent the fear of change, the fear of people who look or speak or play differently. a contempt for rule of law that holds leaders accountable, an intolerance of the senate and free thought. a belief that the sword or the gun or the bomb or the propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what's true and what's right. because of the extraordinary courage of our men and women in
intelligence officers and law enforcement and diplomats who support our troops no foreign terrorist organization that successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland these past eight years. and although boston and orlando and san bernardino and ft. hood remind us of how dangerous radicalization can be. our law enforcem agencies are more effective and vigil than ever. we have taken out tens of thousands of terrorists, including bin ladin. [ applause ] the coalition we are leading against isil has taken out their leaders and taken away about half their territory. isil will be destroyed and no
one who threatens america will ever be safe. and all who serve or have served, it has been the honor of my lifetime to be your commander-in-chief. when we all owe you a deep debt of gratitude. [ applause ] but protecting our way of life, that's not just the job of our milita military. democracy can buckle when it gives into fear. so just as we as citizens must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard
values that make us who we are and that's why for the past eight years, i've worked to put the fight against terrorism on a firmer legal footing. that's why we've end the torture, work to close gitmo, reformed our laws to protect privacies and civil liberties. that's why i reject discrimination against muslim americans, who are just as patriotic as you are. that's why we cannot withdraw.
from big global fights to expand democracy as human rights and women's rights and lbgt rights, no matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem, that's part of defending america. for the fight against extremism and intolerance and sectarianism and chauvinism, are the peace with the fight against authoritarianism and nationalist aggression. if the scope of freedom and respect for the rule of law shrinks around the world, the likelihood of war within and between nations increases. and our own freedoms will eventually be threatened.
so let's be jinl ill but not afraid. isil will try to kill innocent people. but they cannot defeat america unless we betray our constitution and our principles in the fight 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. which brings me to my final point, our democracy, our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted. all of us regardless of party should be thwi
into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions. when voting rates in america are some of the lowest among advanced democracies, we should be making it easier, not harder, to vote. [ applause ] when, when trust in our institutions is low, we should reduce the gross influence of money in our politics and insist on the principles of transparency and ethics and public service, when congress is dysfunctional, we should draw our congressional districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not ridge id
rigid extremes. but remember, none of this happens on its own. all of this depends on our participation, on each of us accepting the responsibility of citizenship. , regardless of which way the pendulum of power happens to be swinging . our constitution is a remarka e remarkable, beautiful gift. but it's really just a piece of partchment. it has no power on its own. we the people, give it power. we, the people, give it meaning with our participation and with the choices that we make and the alliances that we forge, whether
or not we stand up for our freedoms. whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law. that's up to us. america is no fragile thing, but the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured. in his own farewell address, george washington wrote that self government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity and liberty. but from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth. and so, we have to preserve this truth with jealous anxiety, that we should reject the first donning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country t
or to feeble the sacred ties that make us one. >> america, we weaken those tie, when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good chartinger are each willing to enter into public service. so coarse with rancor the americans with who we disagree are seen as misguided but mail ev le malevolent. we weaken those ties when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt and when we sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our