What is the Legacy of the Obama Era?
On Tuesday night, President Obama delivered his “farewell address” to the nation, speaking from his hometown of Chicago to a large crowd of supporters. The content of the speech was generally filled with references to his achievements during the last eight years, but also with a push for progressive political change after he leaves office.
CNN offers a recap:
Popular but politically humbled, President Barack Obama said goodbye to the nation Tuesday night, declaring during his farewell address that he hasn’t abandoned his vision of progressive change but warning that it now comes with a new set of caveats.
His voice at moments catching with emotion, Obama recounted a presidency that saw setbacks as well as successes. Admitting candidly that political discourse has soured under his watch, Obama demanded that Americans renew efforts at reconciliation.
“It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy,” the President said. “To embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.”
Obama also stressed solidarity despite a presidency sometimes at odds with Congress.
“Democracy does not require uniformity,” Obama said. “Our founders quarreled and compromised, and 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 are all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.”
As far as farewell speeches go, President Obama’s was the longest in recent history – by far:
Clinton spoke for 7 minutes, 25 seconds; Reagan spoke for 20 minutes, 42 seconds; and George W. Bush spoke for 13 minutes, 7 seconds. Obama spoke for 51 minutes, 10 seconds, nearly 10 minutes longer that the other three put together.
Obama also broke from the tradition of delivering his final speech from the White House. Clinton and Reagan both spoke from the Oval Office, and George W. Bush spoke in front of a small audience in the White House East Room; the Obama administration distributed public tickets for his speech at the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago.
It is noteworthy to me that the President decided to speak from his hometown of Chicago rather than from within the White House. He’s down to just a few days left, you might think he’d want to savor this time by giving one more speech to the nation in the Commander-in-Chief setting.
With President Obama leaving town, and a new administration ready to take the helm, what can be said of the Obama era? With President Bush, people largely think of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Iraq War, and perhaps the housing collapse in 2008. With President Obama, what are his achievements and failures that will stand out in the history books from your perspective?
The New York Times offers a transcript of his farewell speech in case you missed it.