Tuesday

Things Can Only Get Worse

By

If America had a parliamentary system, Donald Trump — who spent his first full day in office having a temper tantrum, railing against accurate reports of small crowds at his inauguration — would already be facing a vote of no confidence. But we don’t; somehow we’re going to have to survive four years of this.

And how is he going to react to disappointing numbers about things that actually matter?

In his lurid, ghastly Inaugural Address, Mr. Trump portrayed a nation in dire straits — “American carnage.” The real America looks nothing like that; it has plenty of problems, but things could be worse. In fact, it’s likely that they will indeed get worse. How will a man who evidently can’t handle even the smallest blow to his ego deal with it?

Let’s talk about the predictable bad news.

First, the economy. Listening to Mr. Trump, you might have thought America was in the midst of a full-scale depression, with “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation.” Manufacturing employment is indeed down since 2000; but overall employment is way up, and the unemployment rate is low by historical standards.

And it’s not just one number that looks pretty good: Rising wages and the growing number of Americans confident enough to quit their jobs suggest an economy close to full employment.

What this means is that unemployment probably can’t fall much from here, so that even with good policies and good luck, job creation will be much slower than it was in the Obama years. And since bad stuff does happen, there’s a strong likelihood that unemployment will be higher four years from now than it is today.

Oh, and Trumpist budget deficits will probably widen the trade deficit, so that manufacturing employment in particular is likely to fall, not rise.

A second front on which things will almost surely get worse is health care. Obamacare caused the percentage of Americans without insurance to fall sharply, to the lowest level ever. Repeal would send the numbers right back up — 18 million newly uninsured in just the first year, eventually rising to more than 30 million, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates. And no, Republicans who have spent seven years failing to come up with a real replacement won’t develop one in the next few weeks, or ever.

On a third front, crime, the future direction is unclear. The Trump vision of an urban America ravaged by “the crime and the gangs and the drugs” is a dystopian fantasy: Violent crime is, in fact, way down despite highly publicized recent murder increases in a few cities. Crime could, I suppose, fall further, but it could also rise. What we do know is that the Trump administration can’t pacify America’s urban war zones, because those zones don’t exist.

So how will Mr. Trump handle the bad news of rising unemployment, plunging health coverage, and little if any crime reduction? That’s obvious: He’ll deny reality, the way he always does when it threatens his narcissism. But will his supporters go along with his fantasy?

They might. After all, they blocked out the good news from the Obama era. Two-thirds of Trump voters believe, falsely, that the unemployment rate rose under Obama. (Three-quarters believe George Soros is paying people to protest Mr. Trump.) Only 17 percent of self-identified Republicans are aware that the number of uninsured is at a historic low. Most people thought crime was rising even when it was falling. So maybe they will block out bad news in the Trump years.

But it probably won’t be that easy. For one thing, people tend to attribute improvements in their personal situation to their own efforts; surely many voters who gained jobs over the past eight years believe that they did it despite, not thanks to, Obama policies. Will they correspondingly blame themselves, not Donald Trump, for lost jobs and health insurance? Unlikely.

On top of that, Mr. Trump made big promises during the campaign, so the risk of disillusionment is especially high.

Will he respond to bad news by accepting responsibility and trying to do better? Will he renounce his fortune and enter a monastery? That seems equally likely.

No, the insecure egomaniac-in-chief will almost surely deny awkward truths, and berate the media for reporting them. And — this is what worries me — it’s very likely that he’ll try to use his power to shoot the messengers.

Seriously, how do you think the man who compared the C.I.A. to Nazis will react when the Bureau of Labor Statistics first reports a significant uptick in unemployment or decline in manufacturing jobs? What’s he going to do when the Centers for Disease Control and the Census Bureau report spiking numbers of uninsured Americans?

You may have thought that last weekend’s temper tantrum was bad. But there’s much, much worse to come.


Monday

Saturday

Internal List Shows President Trump Was Sworn In Next To His VIP Donors

By Mattathias Schwartz 

When Donald J. Trump took office today, he declared that “we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.”
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Platform7 pages
Documents obtained by The Intercept show exactly which people Trump is giving power to—the wealthiest sliver of American society. The incoming administration allocated at least a dozen of 183 seats on the inaugural platform to donors and fundraisers, who sat beside cabinet designees, senators, and President Trump’s immediate family. Another 49 seats for the pre-inaugural Friday morning church service, which Trump attended, were allocated to a billionaire fundraiser.
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St Johns6 pages
The documents, which come from the inauguration’s organizing committee, paint a markedly different picture than the one Trump presented during the campaign, that of a swashbuckling populist who would overturn “the rigged system” and drain Washington’s corrupt “swamp” of money-driven influence.
If these documents are any indication, Trump’s inner circle is shaping up to be even more plutocratic and insular than that of previous presidents.
The documents include a guest list for VIPs at a Friday morning church ceremony as well as seating behind Trump on the inaugural platform as he took the oath of office. These include megadonors like Sheldon Adelson, Carl Icahn, Steve Wynn, Woody Johnson, and Richard Lefrak—five billionaires with a combined net worth of more than $60 billion. Adelson was reportedly one of a very small number of people who shook hands with Trump following his inaugural address.
Most surprising, perhaps, a lesser-known billionaire, the real estate investor and major Trump fundraiser, Thomas Barrack, who appears to have won himself a favorable position in the new president’s camp. Barrack, who spoke at the Republican convention this summer in Cleveland, was allocated 49 of the 259 seats for Friday morning’s service at St. John’s Episcopal Church, which was attended by Trump and his family—more seats than those allocated to all of the donors combined. Barrack and six of his guests had seats on the inaugural platform. Barrack’s personal seat allocation for the St. John’s service is roughly comparable to that of Vice President Mike Pence, who received 52 church seats and 42 platform seats for “friends and family.”
One of Trump’s own “friends and family” is Peter Thiel, worth more than $2 billion, who founded the data-mining company Palantir Technologies. Thiel is listed as “TBD”—to be determined—for the church service and had one seat allocation on the inaugural platform. It is unclear whether Thiel actually attended.
In 2013, the New York Times made an incomplete chart showing many of the attendees who were granted platform seats for Barack Obama’s second inaugural. Only two of those among the platform crowd who the Times was able to identify were megadonors—Chris Hughes, the Facebook co-founder, and his husband Sean Eldridge.
A spokesperson for the Trump transition team did not immediately respond to requests by phone and email for comment.

Thursday

Mr. Me No One Loves the 45th President Like Donald Trump

The hope that Donald Trump might become more presidential as his inauguration approached has proven misguided. The 45th president of the United States has shown that his own public image is his first priority. 

 By , , and

To understand how the future president of the United States thinks and acts, a look back at how he treated one of his former employees can be helpful. The woman in question didn't become known because of complaints regarding Donald Trump's behavior. Rather, he himself boasted about his own treatment of her in one of his many books.

Trump hired the woman in the 1980s. "I decided to make her into somebody," he writes in "Think Big and Kick Ass," a book in which he seeks to share the secret of his success with the world. He gave her a great job, Trump writes, and "she bought a beautiful home."

In the early 1990s, when his company ran into financial difficulties, Trump asked the woman to request help from a friend of hers who held an important position at a bank. The woman, though, didn't feel comfortable doing so and Trump fired her immediately.

Later, she founded her own company, but it went broke. "I was really happy when I found that out," Trump writes in his book. Although he had done so much for her, he writes, "she had turned on me."
In Trump's world, even just the appearance of disloyalty is an unforgivable sin. He encourages his readers to react in such cases with brutal vengeance. Ultimately, the woman lost her home and her husband left her, Trump relates. "I was glad." In subsequent years, he continued speaking poorly of her, he writes. "Now I go out of my way to make her life miserable."

At the end of the chapter called "Revenge," Trump advises his readers to constantly seek to take revenge. "Always make a list of people who hurt you. Then sit back and wait for the appropriate time to get revenge. When they least expect it, go after them with a vengeance. Go for their jugular."

This hardcore Darwinism helped Trump, who sees life as "a series of battles ending in victory or defeat," become a rich man on the often fierce real-estate market.

Trump, who will be inaugurated on Friday as the 45th president of the United States, appears to be relying on the same formula for success in his new job -- despite all of the predictable effects that might have for his country and the world. Just last week, it was obvious on several occasions that Trump has no intention whatsoever of adjusting his behavior to correspond to the dignity of the office he has been elected to fill. He seems to continue believing exclusively in his own maxim: "Think Big and Kick Ass."

Last Wednesday, Trump once again took to Twitter to aggressively go after those who had dared to voice critique, or whose behavior he disapproved of. He later did the same during a press conference.
Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to "leak" into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?
After it was leaked that U.S. intelligence had informed Trump that Russia held potentially compromising information about him, including an alleged golden shower with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room, he hit back hard. What the intelligence community had done, he wrote on Twitter, was "very unfair" and a "total political witch hunt!" He then wrote: "Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to 'leak' into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?"

Insufficient Dignity
 
For months, many have been talking about Trump's lack of maturity and his insufficient dignity for one of the most powerful and honorable political offices in the world. And yet his press conference on Wednesday left even party allies stunned.
He showed himself to be a man with more faith in Russian President Vladimir Putin than in the findings of America's own intelligence agencies. A man who reacts aggressively to all forms of critique. A man who sought to intimidate CNN reporter Jim Acosta and refused to answer the reporter's questions because he doesn't approve of the broadcaster's coverage.

It was an appearance that lacked everything that one has come to expect from U.S. presidents: self-control, diplomacy, reserve and restraint. He spent much of the press conference praising himself and his team and there wasn't a moment of irony or self-doubt. Even in the U.S., where referring to one's own strengths is much more common than it is elsewhere, such a degree of conceit is unusual.
For many, victory is paired with humility. Trump, by contrast, hasn't passed up a single opportunity since Nov. 8 to boast about his "big" election victory and he continues to cast insults at his defeated opponent Hillary Clinton. Those who thought that Trump's almost conciliatory Christmas address meant that the president-elect was changing his tune were quickly disabused of that notion.

On the weekend before last, actress Meryl Streep used her speech at the Golden Globes to criticize Trump for his mocking of a physically disabled New York Times reporter during the campaign. The incident was Trump's revenge against the reporter, who had exposed one of the GOP nominee's lies. Trump was quick to strike back at Streep. He claimed that he was not making fun of the reporter's disabilities, even though videos make it clear that that is exactly what he was doing. He then took to Twitter to call Streep "one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood" and "a Hillary flunky." It was yet another tweet-storm showing how far removed Trump is from reality.

 Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn't know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a.....

His reactions have become totally predictable, no matter whether he is responding to a perceived slight from an employee, a reporter, an actress or the intelligence community. There is no nuance in his retribution; it is always excessive.

Trump's behavior can often be reduced to a simple question: Was somebody nice to me or not? It usually doesn't get much more complex than that. As such, the key to understanding the new U.S. president lies less in his political pledges or in the hopes of his followers and more in the make-up of his personality.

'Like a Six-Year-Old Boy'
 
Pulitzer Prize winning American investigative journalist David Cay Johnston, who wrote a biography of Donald Trump, says that he is a 12-year-old trapped in the body of a 70-year-old. In all of the discussions he held with Trump, says another of the president-elect's biographers, Michael D'Antonio, he came across as a young boy. "Like a six-year-old boy who comes home from the playground and can hardly wait to announce that he shot the decisive goal," D'Antonio said in an interview.

Johnston and D'Antonio spent hundreds of hours trying to understand this man. And their assessments were only exceeded by Trump himself.

"When I look at myself in the first grade and I look at myself now, I'm basically the same," Trump told D'Antonio in 2014. "The temperament is not that different."

Trump displays the classic worldview and behavioral patterns of people who suffer from narcissism. Even as psychologists are generally unwilling to offer diagnoses of people they have not met in person, many have made an exception when it comes to Trump, in part because he exhibits so many of the symptoms.

Howard Gardner, a professor of developmental psychology at Harvard University, described the incoming president several years ago as "remarkably narcissistic." Clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis attributes to Trump a "textbook narcissistic personality disorder." His colleague George Simon even uses videos of Trump to illustrate the disorder in seminars.

Experts say that the classic behaviors associated with narcissism include: an outsized need for attention, recognition and admiration; the inability to feel empathy; constant self-absorption; and grotesquely exaggerated self-praise. For narcissists, the world around them is only interesting insofar as it reflects themselves. Those suffering from the disorder are so hypersensitive to criticism that everyone who withholds admiration is seen as an enemy.

Extreme narcissists, research results show, are so addicted to attention and admiration that they frequently tell lies. And they are so convinced of their own merit that they are incapable of feeling regret: In their eyes, the admission of error is not a sign of greatness, rather it detracts from their grandiosity.

'Abject Rejection of Reflection'
 
Self-reflection -- the critical questioning of one's own behavior -- is something that Trump sees as potentially damaging. "I don't like to analyze myself because I might not like what I see," he said in a 2014 interview with D'Antonio. The biographer, who conducted numerous interviews with Trump and members of his family, says that this is the most salient characteristic of the entire clan. D'Antonio says Trump "refuses to reflect on what he's done" and that he exhibits an "abject rejection of reflection."

This finding goes a long way toward explaining Trump's reactions, announcements and threats. It is likewise hardly surprising that he hasn't changed his approach just because he has now been elected president. He is simply unable to.

When Trump spent weeks rejecting intelligence evaluations indicating that Russia's hacking and release of internal emails from the Democratic National Committee was an attempt to aid his candidacy, that too was the voice of an aggrieved narcissist. Trump was afraid that the shine of his election victory might be tarnished.

One can assume that he is fully aware of the dangers represented to his country by professional hacking and interference from foreign powers. But in such moments, he seems unable to focus on the larger, more relevant problem at hand. He only sees himself and the potential devaluation of his Election Day triumph -- with the consequence that he placed more trust in Russian President Vladimir Putin and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange than he did in America's own intelligence services.

 'Be Paranoid'

 The fact that Hillary Clinton received almost 3 million more votes than he did is also seen by Trump as a deep affront -- to the point that in November he tweeted that he "also won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally

There is not a shred of evidence for this absurd claim. Nor did Trump seem to care that such an accusation is akin to questioning the legality of the election and could erode the popular faith in democracy. Something greater was at stake: His own reputation.

A president who is unable to subordinate his own emotions to the larger issues at stake is doubtlessly a problem. Just as problematic is a commander in chief who is unable to differentiate the important from the unimportant. His Twitter eruption from five weeks before the election, when he began tweeting non-stop at 3.20 a.m., has since become legendary. It wasn't the situation in Syria that was bothering him, nor was he concerned about the final stages of the campaign. Rather, he wanted revenge -- against a beauty queen from 1996 who had the gumption to support Hillary Clinton. He said she was "disgusting" and that, after winning the pageant, had "gained a massive amount of weight."

Nobody, of course, likes to hear unflattering things about themselves. But civilization, Enlightenment, honor or perhaps mere tactical considerations have created a buffer between impulse and reaction in most people. Trump, though, is different. He represents a return to more archaic times.
He has been aided by an era in which there is apparently a widespread need for more rustic forms of speech and action, where discretion and moderation are derided as "political correctness" and tactical thinking as a fundamental evil associated with the allegedly corrupt "establishment."

In a motivational speech Trump delivered 12 years ago in Denver, he encouraged his audience to trust nobody. "Be paranoid," he said. This constant fear of being stabbed in the back and Trump's need for unconditional loyalty also informed his cabinet choices. His team of designated ministers is primarily made up of people who were early and vocal supporters of his campaign.

Electing Narcissists to Positions of Power
 
Attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions was the first Senator to endorse Trump during the primaries. The president-elect chose Ben Carson as secretary of housing and urban development even though Carson himself says he has little knowledge of the subject matter. His primary qualification is the fact that he was the first of the Republican candidates to have spoken favorably of Donald Trump. Michael Flynn, a former army general, is to become national security advisor, in part because of his early idolization of Trump. For the position of chief White House strategist, Trump chose Stephen Bannon, head of the ultra-right wing website Breitbart News, the only outlet that consistently supported Trump during the campaign.

All of these nominations show the dangers of electing narcissists to positions of power. Their need for loyalty coupled with their desire to shine brighter than all others is not a good mixture when it comes to assembling competent leadership teams. Often enough, the result is a group of powerless acolytes.

Trump's temporary interest in naming Mitt Romney to head up the State Department initially looked surprising amid the preference for sycophants he had displayed up until that point. Romney had been vocal and harsh in his critique of Trump during the campaign and it seemed out of character for Trump to be considering tapping Romney for a senior administration job anyway. But he invited Romney to several interviews, staged by Trump as a kind of casting show, and the president-elect provided frequent updates on how the process was going. Ultimately, though, Trump chose Rex Tillerson over Romney -- making the publically staged interviews suddenly seem like an elaborate act of revenge against his prominent detractor.

The world is a dangerous place and you have to be ready for a fight: This lesson is one that Fred Trump taught his son Donald early on. An owner and manager of apartment buildings in New York, Fred occasionally brought Donald along to collect rent payments in person on the weekends. According to a vignette related in an article in the Atlantic last June, Donald once asked his father why he stood to the side after ringing the doorbell. "Because sometimes they shoot right through the door," his father apparently replied.

For Trump, these excursions with his father taught him the importance of being "tough," or, as his father would have it, a "killer" who only accepts victory and for whom losing is a threat to survival. The idea that the winner takes all and the loser gets nothing became something of a maxim for Trump. In his book "Crippled America," Trump writes that he felt even as a child that he needed to become "the toughest kid in the neighborhood."

Trump's Admiration of Putin
 
This belief that life is a battle, that only victory matters and that losers are to be ridiculed and abased, was solidified when Donald was sent to military school as a 13-year-old. In this competitive environment, he was seen as one of the most ruthless students. He had no friends because having friends was a sign of weakness. It was more important, he felt, to show strength, to intimidate those around him, to show authority and to be a man.

One of his idols at the military school was baseball coach Theodore Dobias. "Like so many strong guys, Dobias had a tendency to go for the jugular if he smelled weakness," Trump would later write. But the coach treated boys who showed strength like men.

Against this background, it isn't difficult to understand Trump's admiration of Vladimir Putin. It may well be that Putin has long been in possession of compromising material pertaining to Trump. But it is important to remember that Putin was the first world leader who showed regard for Trump and found words of praise for him.

"He's a very colorful man, talented without doubt," Putin said of Trump at a time when many in the U.S. hadn't yet begun to take the GOP candidate seriously. The Russian leader added that Trump was "the absolute leader of the presidential race." Trump's reaction was predictable: "When people call you brilliant, it's always good, especially when the person heads up Russia."

Trump has also been quick to praise Putin's leadership, saying admiringly: "At least he's a leader, unlike what we have in this country." It's Putin's aura of strength and lack of compunction that Trump so reveres. "I think he thinks of Putin as being a strong person, and I think he thinks of himself as being a very strong person," Trump confidant Newt Gingrich said of the president-elect in an interview with SPIEGEL.

The biggest window into his soul is Trump's Twitter account. Fully 20.1 million people follow Trump on the social media site, but he only follows 42 accounts, which is an adequate reflection of his worldview: It's enough when only one person has a say.

Trump writes only two types of tweets: those in which he praises either himself or people who have been nice to him; and those in which he attacks those who have not. There is very little room for differentiation or nuance and there are few tweets that don't have directly to do with his favorite subject: Trump. When he recently sent out Christmas greetings to his followers, it didn't show his family gathered together. Rather, it was a picture of just Donald Trump, alone in front of a decorated tree. In Trump's Twitter world, his private life is political. There is no separation.

On Jan. 6, two weeks before the inauguration, the newly elected president tweeted about an issue that would seem to be just as important to him as U.S. relations with China or the future of NATO: He tweeted about "The Apprentice," the television show that lent Trump a significant portion of his fame. Because Trump was running for president, NBC had chosen Arnold Schwarzenegger to take over as the show's host and he celebrated his premier on Jan. 6. Trump immediately commented on the show's weak ratings and then provided his own explanation: "the ratings machine, DJT" was missing. In the primaries, as Trump himself noted, Schwarzenegger had supported the Republican candidate John Kasich.

Great People with Fantastic Futures
 
When Trump channel surfs, it would seem that he only stops on shows that he is in or which are discussing him. He often turns to Twitter to comment live during talk shows, using the channel to blast his critics as unsuccessful idiots working for a failing broadcaster. Supporters, by contrast, are great people with fantastic futures.

If you follow him on Twitter, it quickly becomes clear that the world of the man who has pledged to return America to greatness is rather small. The only thing important to Trump is his dominance, or the perfect illusion of his dominance. In order to maintain this illusion, Trump must also display his dominance over facts that might sully this perfect image. That's why he claims via Twitter that he has never insulted anybody even though there are videos proving the contrary. In his world, there is no common ground where facts are rooted. There are only competing subjective interpretations -- and it's a competition that he always wins.

Lies for him are a means to an end -- and they are poison for the public discourse. When arguments can no longer be assessed and claims can no longer be verified, democracies can no longer arrive at a consensus. It is akin to restructuring the country in accordance with the Twitter model, in which one person speaks and everyone else watches in horror. It becomes an uncritical, one-way street.

In Trump's image of himself as a warrior, as a "killer," there is no room for uncertainty or doubt. The most important thing is to fight the fight, and risk is part of that. During his professional life, Trump has had to declare bankruptcy four times, yet he became a billionaire nonetheless. In the campaign, he was mocked as a clown who didn't stand a chance, but he is now going to be sworn in as president. In the eyes of his voters, Trump's surprising triumph merely augments his aura of invincibility -- and it can be expected that their awe will only further exacerbate his narcissistic overestimation of himself. There have, in any case, been no indications of humility or temperance in the weeks since his election victory.

A Risk and an Opportunity
 
At the same time, Trump's aggression, his appetite for risk, his passion for the hunt, is his greatest weakness. His global network of companies and family members combined with his tendency to surround himself with yes-men from whom he demands unconditional loyalty could ultimately land him in trouble.

Either way, the U.S. and the rest of the world now has to find a way to deal with this rather unorthodox leader. And there is little experience to fall back on, at least not when it comes to leaders of Western democracies. The analogy to Silvio Berlusconi is perhaps most accurate, a man who was likewise considered an unlikely election victor in mid-1990s Italy.

Like Trump, Berlusconi was a successful businessman, had a significant media presence and displayed signs of narcissism. He tried to run the state like a company and had little use for democratic values like freedom of the press or judicial independence.

It took quite some time before Berlusconi ran into trouble due to his numerous iniquities, legal violations and attempts at corruption. His ability to manipulate people and win them over, one shared by many narcissists, ensured him a total of 10 years as Italy's prime minister.

What, then, is the correct approach to Donald Trump? His grotesque self-absorption and his childish need to be loved present both a risk and an opportunity. And behind his aggressive posturing is a weakness, a vulnerability. As irrational as Trump's behavior might be at first glance, it is often extremely predictable.

The most effective way to influence him is likely that of flattering him, of giving him all of the respect that he yearns for. Vladimir Putin isn't the only one who has understood this basic truth. It is a strategy that Barack Obama has apparently followed as well. Following Trump's election victory, the president quickly congratulated the winner and then graciously received his successor in the White House. Obama had hammered Trump on the campaign trail, but the president-elect had only positive things to say about Obama in the immediate aftermath of their November meeting.

Such overt graciousness likely makes it easier to talk and negotiate with Donald Trump. That might sound a bit simplistic, but that might very well be the best way to deal with the incoming president: thinking simply.

Protests off to early start ahead of Trump inauguration

Sunday

President Barack Obama Weekly Address January 14, 2017 (Audio/Transcript)

President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
January 14, 2017
This week, I traveled to Chicago to deliver my final farewell address to the nation, following in the tradition of Presidents before me.  It was an opportunity to say thank you.  Whether we’ve seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the American people – in living rooms and schools; at farms and on factory floors; at diners and on distant military outposts – are what have kept me honest, kept me inspired, and kept me going.  Every day, I learned from you.  You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.

Over the course of these eight years, I have seen the goodness, the resilience, and the hope of the American people.  I’ve seen neighbors looking out for each other as we rescued our economy from the worst crisis of our lifetimes.  I’ve hugged cancer survivors who finally know the security of affordable health care.  I’ve seen communities like Joplin rebuild from disaster, and cities like Boston show the world that no terrorist will ever break the American spirit.

I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates and our newest military officers.  I’ve mourned with grieving families searching for answers, and found grace in a Charleston church.  I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch, and our wounded warriors walk again.  I’ve seen our doctors and volunteers rebuild after earthquakes and stop pandemics in their tracks.  I’ve learned from students who are building robots and curing diseases and who will change the world in ways we can’t even imagine.  I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us of our obligations to care for our refugees, to work in peace, and above all to look out for each other.

That’s what’s possible when we come together in the hard, slow, sometimes frustrating, but always vital work of self-government.   But we can’t take our democracy for granted.  All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into the work of citizenship.  Not just when there’s an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.  If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try to talk with one in real life.  If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing.  If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, then grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.

Our success depends on our participation, regardless of which way the pendulum of power swings.  It falls on each of us to be guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.  Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title: Citizen.

It has been the honor of my life to serve you as President.  Eight years later, I am even more optimistic about our country’s promise.  And I look forward to working along your side, as a citizen, for all my days that remain.

Thanks, everybody.  God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. 

Wednesday

President Barak Obama's farewell address (Video/Transcript)




OBAMA: HelloChicago!
 
(APPLAUSE)
It’s good to be home!

(APPLAUSE)
Thank you, everybody!

(APPLAUSE)
Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)
Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)
Thank you so much, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)
It’s good to be home.

Thank you.
(APPLAUSE)
We’re on live TV here, I’ve got to move.

(APPLAUSE)
You can tell that I’m a lame duck, because nobody is following instructions.

(LAUGHTER)
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 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 and on factory floors; at 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 twenties, and I was still trying to figure out who I was; still searching for a purpose to 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.

It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss.

(CROWD CHANTING “FOUR MORE YEARS”)

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-government.

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-executing; 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 together as well, to achieve a common good, a greater good.

For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation. It’s what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom.

It’s what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande. It’s what pushed women to reach for the ballot. It’s what powered workers to organize. It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima; Iraq and Afghanistan — and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well.

(APPLAUSE)

So that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional. Not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity 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 has been contentious. Sometimes it has 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 founding creed to embrace all, and not just some.

(APPLAUSE)

If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch 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 right to health insurance 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 is a better, stronger place than it was when we started.

In 10 days the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy. No, no, no, no, no. The peaceful transfer of power from one freely-elected President to the next. I committed to President-Elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me.

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 remain the wealthiest, most powerful, and most respected nation on earth.

Our youth, our drive, our diversity and openness, our 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. 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.

And that’s what I want to focus on tonight, the state of our democracy. Understand democracy does not require uniformity. Our founders argued, they quarreled, and 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.

There have been moments throughout our history that threatened that solidarity. And the beginning of this century has been one of those times. A shrinking world, growing inequality, demographic change, and the specter 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 opportunity.

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And the good news is that today the economy is growing again. Wages, incomes, home values and retirement accounts are all rising again. Poverty is falling again.

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The wealthy are paying a fair share of taxes. Even as the stock market shatters records, the unemployment rate is near a 10-year low. The uninsured rate has never, ever been lower.

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Health care costs are rising at the slowest rate in 50 years. And I’ve said, and I mean it, anyone can put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we’ve made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I will publicly support it.

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Because that, after all, is why we serve. Not to score points or take credit. But to make people’s lives better.

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But, for all the 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 a growing middle class, and ladders for folks who want to get into the middle class.

That’s the economic argument. But stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic idea. While the top 1 percent has amassed a bigger share of wealth and 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 interest of the powerful. That’s a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics.
Now there’re no quick fixes 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 compact to guarantee all our kids the education they need.

(APPLAUSE)
To give workers the power…
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… to unionize for better wages.
(CHEERS)

To update the social safety net to reflect the way we live now.

(APPLAUSE)

And make more reforms to the tax code so corporations and the individuals who reap the most from this new economy don’t avoid their obligations to the country that’s made their very success possible.

(CHEERS)
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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, the disaffection and division 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…

(APPLAUSE)

… and often divisive force in our society.

Now I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, no matter what some folks say.

(APPLAUSE)

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.

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If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves.

(APPLAUSE)

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 workforce.

(APPLAUSE)

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 if 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.
(APPLAUSE)

That is what our Constitution and highest ideals require.

But laws alone won’t be enough. Hearts must change. It 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 need 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 refugee or the immigrant or the rural poor or the transgender American, but also the middle-aged white guy who from the outside may seem like he’s got all the advantages, but has seen his world upended by economic, and cultural, and technological change.

We have to pay attention and listen.

(APPLAUSE)
  
For white Americans, it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow 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 protest, they’re not demanding special treatment, but the equal treatment that our founders promised.
  
(APPLAUSE)
  
For native-born Americans, it means reminding ourselves that the stereotypes about immigrants today were said, almost word for word, about the Irish, and Italians, and Poles, who it was said were going to destroy the fundamental character of America. And as it turned out, America wasn’t weakened by the presence of these newcomers; these newcomers embraced this nation’s creed, and this nation was strengthened.

(APPLAUSE)

So regardless of the station we occupy; we all have to try harder; 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)
(CHEERING)

And that’s not easy to do. For too many of us it’s become safer to 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 partisanship and 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 evidence that is out there.

(APPLAUSE)

And this trend represents a third threat to our democracy. Look, politics is a battle of ideas. That’s how our democracy was designed. In the course of a healthy debate, we prioritize 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.

(CROWD CHEERS)

And we’ll make common ground and compromise impossible. And isn’t that part of what so often makes politics dispiriting? How can elected officials rage about deficits when we propose to spend money on pre-school for kids, but not when we’re cutting taxes for corporations?

How do we excuse ethical lapses in our own party, but pounce when the other party does the same thing? It’s not just dishonest, it’s selective sorting of the facts. 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’ve halved our dependence on foreign oil, we’ve doubled our renewable energy, we’ve led the world to an agreement that (at) the promise to save this planet.

(APPLAUSE)

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 disasters, more economic disruptions, waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary. Now we can and should argue about the best approach to solve the problem. But to simply deny the problem not only betrays future generations, it betrays the essential spirit of this country, the essential spirit of innovation and practical problem-solving that guided our founders.

(CROWD CHEERS)

It is that spirit — it is that spirit born of the enlightenment that made us an economic powerhouse. 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 primacy 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 democracies.

An order based not just on military power or national affiliations, 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 claim to speak for Islam. More recently by autocrats in foreign capitals who seek free markets in 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 pray differently. A contempt for the rule of law that holds leaders accountable. An intolerance of dissent 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 uniform. Because of our intelligence officers and law enforcement and diplomats who support our troops…

(APPLAUSE)

… no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland these past eight years.

(CHEERS)
(APPLAUSE)

And although…
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… Boston and Orlando and San Bernardino and Fort Hood remind us of how dangerous radicalization can be, our law enforcement agencies are more effective and vigilant than ever. We have taken out tens of thousands of terrorists, including Bin Laden.

(CHEERS)
(APPLAUSE)
The global coalition we’re 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.

(CHEERS)
(APPLAUSE)
And all who serve or have served — it has been the honor of my lifetime to be your commander-in-chief.

(CHEERS)
And we all owe you a deep debt of gratitude.

(CHEERS)
(APPLAUSE)
But, protecting our way of life, that’s not just the job of our military. Democracy can buckle when it gives into fear. So just as we as citizens must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are.

(APPLAUSE)

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 ended torture, worked to close Gitmo, reformed our laws governing surveillance to protect privacy and civil liberties.
(APPLAUSE)

That’s why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans…

(CHEERS)

… who are just as patriotic as we are.

(CHEERS)
(APPLAUSE)
That’s why…
(APPLAUSE)
That’s why we cannot withdraw…
(APPLAUSE)

That’s why we cannot withdraw from big global fights to expand democracy and human rights and women’s rights and LGBT rights.

(APPLAUSE)

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 of a piece 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 vigilant, 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.

(APPLAUSE)

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 is threatened whenever we take it for granted.

(APPLAUSE)

All of us, regardless of party, should be throwing ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions.

(APPLAUSE)

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 trust in our institutions is low, we should reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics, and insist on the principles of transparency and ethics in public service. When Congress is dysfunctional, we should draw our districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes.

(APPLAUSE)

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 remarkable, beautiful gift. But it’s really just a piece of parchment. 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 dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties” that make us one.

(APPLAUSE)

America, we weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character aren’t even willing to enter into public service. So course with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are seen, not just as misguided, but as malevolent. We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others.

(APPLAUSE)

When we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt. And when we sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.

(CROWD CHEERS)

It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy. Embrace the joyous task we have been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours because, for all our outward differences, we in fact all share the same proud type, the most important office in a democracy, citizen.

(APPLAUSE)

Citizen. So, you see, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there’s an election, not just when you own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life.

(APPLAUSE)

If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing.
(CROWD CHEERS)

If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clip board, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.

(CROWD CHEERS)

Show up, dive in, stay at it. Sometimes you’ll win, sometimes you’ll lose. Presuming a reservoir in goodness, that can be a risk. And there will be times when the process will disappoint you. But for those of us fortunate enough to have been part of this one and to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire. And more often than not, your faith in America and in Americans will be confirmed. Mine sure has been.
(APPLAUSE)

Over the course of these eight years, I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates and our newest military officers. I have mourned with grieving families searching for answers, and found grace in a Charleston church. I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch. I’ve seen Wounded Warriors who at points were given up for dead walk again.

I’ve seen our doctors and volunteers rebuild after earthquakes and stop pandemics in their tracks. I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us through their actions and through their generosity of our obligations to care for refugees or work for peace and, above all, to look out for each other. So that faith that I placed all those years ago, not far from here, in the power of ordinary Americans to bring about change, that faith has been rewarded in ways I could not have possibly imagined.

And I hope your faith has too. Some of you here tonight or watching at home, you were there with us in 2004 and 2008, 2012.

(CHEERS)
(APPLAUSE)
Maybe you still can’t believe we pulled this whole thing off.

(CHEERS)
Let me tell you, you’re not the only ones.

(LAUGHTER)
Michelle…

(CHEERS)
(APPLAUSE)
Michelle LaVaughn Robinson of the South Side…

(CHEERS)
(APPLAUSE)
… for the past 25 years you have not only been my wife and mother of my children, you have been my best friend.

(CHEERS)
(APPLAUSE)
You took on a role you didn’t ask for. And you made it your own with grace and with grit and with style, and good humor.

(CHEERS)
(APPLAUSE)
You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody.

(CHEERS)
And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model.

(CHEERS)
(APPLAUSE)
You have made me proud, and you have made the country proud.

(CHEERS)
(APPLAUSE)
Malia and Sasha…

(CHEERS)

… under the strangest of circumstances you have become two amazing young women.
(CHEERS)

You are smart and you are beautiful. But more importantly, you are kind and you are thoughtful and you are full of passion.

(CHEERS)
(APPLAUSE)

And…
(APPLAUSE)

… you wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. Of all that I have done in my life, I am most proud to be your dad.

(APPLAUSE)

To Joe Biden…
(CHEERS)
(APPLAUSE)

… the scrappy kid from Scranton…
(CHEERS)
… who became Delaware’s favorite son. You were the first decision I made as a nominee, and it was the best.

(CHEERS)
(APPLAUSE)

Not just because you have been a great vice president, but because in the bargain I gained a brother. And we love you and Jill like family. And your friendship has been one of the great joys of our lives.

(APPLAUSE)

To my remarkable staff, for eight years, and for some of you a whole lot more, I have drawn from your energy. And every day I try to reflect back what you displayed. Heart and character. And idealism. I’ve watched you grow up, get married, have kids, start incredible new journeys of your own.

Even when times got tough and frustrating, you never let Washington get the better of you. You guarded against cynicism. And the only thing that makes me prouder than all the good that we’ve done is the thought of all the amazing things that you are going to achieve from here.
 
(APPLAUSE)

And to all of you out there — every organizer who moved to an unfamiliar town, every kind family who welcomed them in, every volunteer who knocked on doors, every young person who cast a ballot for the first time, every American who lived and breathed the hard work of change — you are the best supporters and organizers anybody could ever hope for, and I will forever be grateful. Because you did change the world.

(APPLAUSE)

You did.

And that’s why I leave this stage tonight even more optimistic about this country than when we started. Because I know our work has not only helped so many Americans; it has inspired so many Americans — especially so many young people out there — to believe that you can make a difference; to hitch your wagon to something bigger than yourselves.

Let me tell you, this generation coming up — unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic — I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, and just, and inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, that it’s not something to fear but something to embrace, you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result the future is in good hands.

(APPLAUSE)

My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you. I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my remaining days. But for now, whether you are young or whether you’re young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your president — the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago.

I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change — but in yours.
I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written: Yes, we can.

(APPLAUSE)

Yes, we did.

(APPLAUSE)

Yes, we can.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. God bless you. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)