Popular but politically humbled, President Barack Obama said goodbye to the nation Tuesday night, declaring during his farewell address that he hasn’t abandoned his vision of progressive change but warning that it now comes with a new set of caveats.
His voice at moments catching with emotion, Obama recounted a presidency that saw setbacks as well as successes. Admitting candidly that political discourse has soured under his watch, Obama demanded that Americans renew efforts at reconciliation.
“It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy,” the President said. “To embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.”
Obama also stressed solidarity despite a presidency sometimes at odds with Congress.
“Democracy does not require uniformity,” Obama said. “Our founders quarreled and compromised, and 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 are all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.”
In a concession that, for now, his brand of progressive politics is stalled in Washington, Obama admitted “for every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back.”
He implored his backers to be vigilant in protecting basic American values he warned could come under siege.
“Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear,” he said. “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.”
And he warned against turning inward, telling Democrats that only by involving themselves in a real political discourse could they hope to renew the hopeful vision he brought to the White House eight years ago.
“After eight years as your President, I still believe that,” he went on. “And it’s not just my belief. It’s the beating heart of our American idea — our bold experiment in self-government.”
In all sincerity: