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.