The Farewell Address for the President: Matt's Memo
"America is a better stronger place than when we started," said President Barack Obama tonight to thousands of supporters in his adopted hometown of Chicago. At 55 years old he will be one of the youngest former President's our nation has known. He bid farewell tonight in a way few of his predecessors could.
He is the third consecutive two term president. But, he leaves on remarkably high ground. His approval rating is 55%. President George W. Bush went out at 35%. President Clinton left the White House so weighed down by impeachment his Vice President chose to leave him off the campaign trail. President Bush 41 left in defeat. President Reagan left during the early stages of Alzheimer's.
President Carter departed in the throws of the Iranian hostage crisis. President Ford could not win election. President Nixon exited in disgrace. President Johnson finished his only elected term mired in the Vietnam War. We know what happened to President Kennedy.
President Obama has written his own story. He quickly listed the accomplishments at the top of tonight's address. "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, and 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 -- you might have said our sights were set a little too high," said President Obama.
You could argue half the nation did not agree with the President's list of accomplishments when voters elected Donald Trump in November. The voices of those who felt left out were heard. Tomorrow we will hear from the President-Elect during his first news conference. The contrast from one President to the next is stark.
President Obama used his oratorical skills of persuasion tonight as a call to action to keep America on a track he has begun. "Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted. All of us should be throwing ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions."
He challenged those who want to make a difference to run for office themselves. He told those listening how they can be energized by the work of public service.
America's political system is unlike any other. It survives the election of a new leader every four or eight years. A different type of leader can be good. If it is not, we vote again in less than four years. History decides who were the greats, the goods. The average and the awful. It's too soon to decide when the successor has yet to take the oath.
As President Obama steps a challenge for him. How will his post-Presidency unfold? Can he find a new way to lead and shape the nation's future? His farewell address lifted the nation again even as he quieted the cheers of "four more years".