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Obama farewell: Politics aside, different flavours of the US President’s speech

world Updated: Jan 11, 2017 15:03 IST
US President

President Barack Obama wipes away tears while speaking during his farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago.(AP Photo)

US President Barack Obama bid farewell to the nation on Tuesday in an emotional speech that sought to comfort a country on edge over rapid economic changes, persistent security threats and the election of Republican billionaire Donald Trump.

But here’s a rare President who became the face of pop culture and often played out the trends of our times: slow-jamming news with Jimmy Fallon, reading mean tweets with Jimmy Kimmel, filling out his NCAA basketball bracket on ESPN, and even dropping the mic at the last White House correspondents’ dinner.

It’s only fair to expect more from the last speech of his presidency. Here are a few to remember:

‘I can’t do that!’

Even before Obama hit his stride, the audience erupted with chants -- “Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!”

The President casually smiled, raised his hand and replied: “I can’t do that!” This is not a monarchy, after all.

Obama waves to the crowd following his farewell speech to the nation in Chicago, Illinois. (AFP Photo)

Downing the jeers

When the Democrat President noted that he would soon be replaced by Trump, the crowd began to boo.

“No, no, no, no, no,” Obama said. One of the nation’s great strengths, he said, “is the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next.”

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Teary-eyed President

Obama wiped away tears as he paid tribute to his daughters and Michelle Obama -- his “best friend”, his wife, and the First Lady -- at the emotional close of the farewell address in his adoptive city of Chicago on Tuesday.

“Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, girl of the south side, for the past 25 years, you have not only been my wife and mother of my children, you have been my best friend,” Obama said, looking at the First Lady who was seated before him dressed all in black.

First lady Michelle Obama and daughter Malia lean into one another as they listen to President Barack Obama speak during his farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago. (AP Photo)

“You took on a role you didn’t ask for and made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humour,” he told her, at one point pulling out a handkerchief to dab away tears -- as the crowd of 18,000 cheered wildly.

“A new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. You’ve made me proud. You’ve made the country proud.”

It was in Chicago that the Obamas met, that their daughters were born, and as the President put it in a Facebook post ahead of the speech, “for Michelle and me, Chicago is where it all started”.

Michelle Obama was not too late in responding: 

‘Proud’ to be a dad

Obama addressed his daughters Malia and Sasha and praised the “two amazing young women” they had become during the family’s eight years in the White House.

“Of all that I have done in my life, I am most proud to be your dad,” he said -- as Malia Obama too shed a few tears with her mother’s arm around her.

“You are smart, and you are beautiful, but more importantly, you are kind, and you are thoughtful, and you are full of passion,” Obama told them. “And you bore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily.”

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To the ‘scrappy kid from Scranton’

The 55-year-old President finally turned to Joe Biden -- who along with his wife Jill he described as a second “family”, drawing yet another standing ovation for the vice-president.

“To Joe Biden, the scrappy kid from Scranton who became Delaware’s favorite son: you were the first choice I made as a nominee, and the best. Not just because you have been a great Vice President, but because in the bargain, I gained a brother. “

Watch | US President Barack Obama’s last speech

When the curtains came down

“Yes we can,” Obama said in his parting message, reviving his campaign chant.

To that, he added the first time: “Yes we did.” And the crowd roared.

Barack Obama -- the son of a Kenyan goat herder and self-described “skinny kid with a funny name” who grew up to become America’s first black president -- had said his goodbye.

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