WASHINGTON — President Obama's farewell address in Chicago on Tuesday night was part autobiography, part valedictory and part exhortation for Americans to work together to solve the nations' problems.
Obama connected his time in office with his roots as a community organizer in Chicago.
“I first came to Chicago when I was in my early twenties, still trying to figure out who I was; still searching for a purpose to my life," he said.
The speech was delivered at McCormick Place convention center on the south side of Chicago's downtown.
"It was in neighborhoods 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. This is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.”
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“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.”
Obama also borrowed from Thomas Jefferson, whose Declaration of Independence has inspired many of Obama's major speeches.
The American experiment was founded on "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,” Obama said. "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.”
“This is the great gift our founders gave us. The freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat, toil, and imagination — and the imperative to strive together as well, to achieve a greater good.”
On the way to Chicago. White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Air Force One that Obama is “not one to be overly sentimental,” but it would be unrealistic for anyone in his position tonight not to feel some nostalgia.
The speech will not address Obama's post-presidential plans. "There will be a time and place” for Obama to speak at length about that, Earnest said.