EDITORIAL – Obama’s parting words same as his first: ‘Yes we can!’

President Barack Obama says goodbye. (Screengrab)
President Barack Obama says goodbye. (Screengrab)

An ArmchairMayor.ca editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THERE WAS a mixture of sadness and inspiration in the American president’s farewell speech tonight.

Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, the first African-American to hold the office, went out very much the way he came in, with his trademark oratorical skill and optimism. He waited until the end of his lengthy speech to employ the famous slogan he used when he first won election based on the proposition that the U.S. can change for the better — “Yes we can.” But he added, “Yes we did.”

He pledged to keep on working — as a citizen — for the values upon which the nation was founded (though it may often fail to attain), and urged people of all political stripes to engage in respectful dialogue and aim to make the American democracy better.

The U.S. constitution, he said, is “a remarkably beautiful gift” but it’s only a piece of parchment that obtains its power from the people.

He spent several minutes on the importance of mainstream media and the impact of social media, and the alarming fact that nowadays we choose information “that fits our opinions” instead of the other way around.

“Science and reason matter,” he said, adding, “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking to one of them in real life.”

While it was an elegant and gracious speech, Obama didn’t ignore his successor’s habit of playing loose with the facts. He referred to the obvious fact of climate change, and the threat to employment by automation as opposed to overseas workers, and challenged claims about Obamacare, saying, “I will publicly support” any system that improves healthcare more than his has done.

He didn’t forget those who supported and helped him, especially his family, tearing up as he praised his wife Michelle.

As one commentator said afterward, it will be a long time before we hear a speech of that caliber again.

mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

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2 comments

  1. I am so very, very sad that such eloquent, intelligent, caring and truthful leadership in the 44th presidency — Barrack and Michelle — will be no more. That they are handing over the reins in such a dignified manner to a friggiin’ narcissistic lunatic says so much about their characters. Trump will implode soon. I think there will be even more financial scandles, more international dramas and more inappropriate/pervert comments (like saying that he’d be interested in his pretty daughter if she wasn’t actually his daughter. Plus his wife was sitting a chair or two beside him.) The husband of his pretty daughter is now one if his chief staffers. Seems a bit incestuous to me. Not convinced? Check Twitter in th middle of the night …
    The shape of things to come is so ludicrous I’m not sure I will be able comment again.

  2. I agree. The speech captured what can be historically great about America and its bold experiment in government ” of the people and for the people”. Unfortunately, what America could ( and perhaps should ) be, as brilliantly conveyed in Obama’s speech, remains an elusive dream. Its light might be diminished appreciably over the next few years. However, as Obama made clear, as long as there remain those who truly believe, that light will not be extinguished.

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