The tradition of holding a farewell address goes back to the first American president, George Washington. Such a speech has a two-fold purpose: it is a look back at what has been achieved and it is also a look to the future, at the challenges that the country and the new administration will be facing. Most of the farewell addresses held by out-going presidents have not gone down in the history books. Many speeches were nothing but convoluted self-praise, a last defense as to why certain decisions were made during the term of office. One exception was the speech made by Dwight Eisenhower, who warned of the dangerously growing power of the military-industrial complex.
And now we have the highly emotional farewell address by Barack Obama who, to the surprise of many, held an extremely optimistic speech.
This was unexpected perhaps, because in many policy areas, his opinion could not be farther from that of his elected successor, Donald Trump, who has already announced that he hopes to reverse many of the things achieved in the last eight years.
What a tragedy: President Obama's political legacy depends, in part, on what Trump decides to keep.
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Obama suspected this. But he did not let it shake his confidence. His faith in the American people, in their values, in his country's constitution seems unshaken. US democracy will only be in danger when the American people take it for granted, he said in Chicago, the city where his political career began, a career that in the end led him to the White House. This was where, as a young senator, he called on his fellow countrymen to become socially and politically involved and not to fall into cynicism or become disheartened by setbacks.