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  • The President: Hello, Chicago!

  • (Applause.)

  • It's good to be home!

  • (Applause.)

  • Thank you, everybody.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause.)

  • Thank you so much.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause.)

  • All right, everybody sit down.

  • (Applause.)

  • We're on live TV here.

  • I've got to move.

  • (Applause.)

  • You can tell that I'm a lame duck

  • because nobody is following instructions.

  • (Laughter.)

  • Everybody have a seat.

  • (Applause.)

  • My fellow Americans --

  • (applause)

  • -- Michelle and I have been so touched by all the well

  • wishes that we've received over the past few weeks.

  • But tonight, it's my turn to say thanks.

  • (Applause.)

  • Whether we have seen eye-to-eye or

  • rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you,

  • the American people, in living rooms and in

  • schools, at farms, on factory floors, at diners

  • and on distant military outposts -- those

  • conversations are what have kept me honest, and

  • kept me inspired, and kept me going.

  • And every day, I have learned from you.

  • You made me a better President, and you made me

  • a better man.

  • (Applause.)

  • So I first came to Chicago when I was

  • in my early 20s.

  • And I was still trying to figure out who I was,

  • still searching for a purpose in my life.

  • And it was a neighborhood 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.

  • Audience: Four more years!

  • Four more years!

  • Four more years!

  • The President: I can't do that.

  • Audience: Four more years!

  • Four more years!

  • Four more years!

  • The President: This is where I learned that

  • change only happens when ordinary people get

  • involved and they get engaged, and they come

  • together to demand it.

  • 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.

  • It's 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.

  • 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.

  • What a radical idea.

  • A great gift that our Founders gave to us: The

  • freedom to chase our individual dreams through

  • our sweat and toil and imagination, and the

  • imperative to strive together, as well, to

  • achieve a common good, a greater good.

  • For 240 years, our nation's call to

  • citizenship has given work and purpose to

  • each new generation.

  • It's what led patriots to choose republic over

  • tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that

  • makeshift railroad to freedom.

  • It's what pulled immigrants and refugees

  • across oceans and the Rio Grande.

  • (Applause.)

  • It's what pushed women to reach

  • for the ballot.

  • It's what powered workers to organize.

  • It's why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and

  • Iwo Jima, Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • And why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were

  • prepared to give theirs, as well.

  • (Applause.)

  • So that's what we mean when we say

  • America is exceptional -- not that our nation has

  • been flawless from the start, but that we have

  • shown the capacity to change and make life

  • better for those who follow.

  • Yes, our progress has been uneven.

  • The work of democracy has always been hard.

  • It's always been contentious.

  • Sometimes it's been bloody.

  • For every two steps forward, it often feels we

  • take one step back.

  • But the long sweep of America has been defined

  • by forward motion, a constant widening of our

  • founding creed to embrace all and not just some.

  • (Applause.)

  • 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 --

  • (applause)

  • -- 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,

  • take out the mastermind of 9/11 --

  • (applause)

  • -- 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 --

  • (applause)

  • -- if I had told you all that, you might have said

  • our sights were set a little too high.

  • But that's what we did.

  • (Applause.)

  • That's what you did.

  • You were the change.

  • You answered people's hopes, and because of you,

  • by almost every measure, America is a better,

  • stronger place than it was when we started.

  • (Applause.)

  • In 10 days, the world will witness a

  • hallmark of our democracy.

  • Audience: Nooo --

  • The President: No, no, no, no,

  • no -- the peaceful transfer of power from one

  • freely elected President to the next.

  • (Applause.)

  • I committed to President-elect Trump that

  • my administration would ensure the smoothest

  • possible transition, just as President

  • Bush did for me.

  • (Applause.)

  • Because it's up to all of us to

  • make sure our government can help us meet the many

  • challenges we still face.

  • We have what we need to do so.

  • We have everything we need to meet those challenges.

  • After all, we remain the wealthiest, most powerful,

  • and most respected nation on Earth.

  • Our youth, our drive, our diversity and openness,

  • our boundless capacity for risk and reinvention means

  • that the future should be ours.

  • But that potential will only be realized if

  • our democracy works.

  • Only if our politics better reflects the

  • decency of our people.

  • (Applause.)

  • Only if all of us, regardless of

  • party affiliation or particular interests, help restore

  • the sense of common purpose that we so badly

  • need right now.

  • That's what I want to focus on tonight: The

  • state of our democracy.

  • Understand, democracy does not require uniformity.

  • Our founders argued.

  • They quarreled.

  • Eventually they compromised.

  • They 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're all in this

  • together; that we rise or fall as one.

  • (Applause.)

  • There have been moments throughout

  • our history that threatens that solidarity.

  • And the beginning of this century has been one

  • of those times.

  • A shrinking world, growing inequality; demographic

  • change and the specter of terrorism -- these forces

  • haven't just tested our security and our

  • prosperity, but are testing our democracy,

  • as well.

  • And how we meet these challenges to our

  • democracy will determine our ability to educate our

  • kids, and create good jobs, and protect

  • our homeland.

  • In other words, it will determine our future.

  • To begin with, our democracy won't work

  • without a sense that everyone has

  • economic opportunity.

  • And the good news is that today the economy

  • is growing again.

  • Wages, incomes, home values, and retirement

  • accounts are all rising again.

  • Poverty is falling again.

  • (Applause.)

  • The wealthy are paying a fairer share

  • of taxes even as the stock market shatters records.

  • The unemployment rate is near a 10-year low.

  • The uninsured rate has never, ever been lower.

  • (Applause.)

  • Health care costs are rising at

  • the slowest rate in 50 years.

  • And I've said and I mean it -- if anyone can put

  • together a plan that is demonstrably better than

  • the improvements we've made to our health care

  • system and that covers as many people at less cost,

  • I will publicly support it.

  • (Applause.)

  • Because that, after all, is

  • why we serve.

  • Not to score points or take credit, but to make

  • people's lives better.

  • (Applause.)

  • But for all the real progress

  • that we've made, we know it's not enough.

  • Our economy doesn't work as well or grow as fast

  • when a few prosper at the expense of a growing

  • middle class and ladders for folks who want to get

  • into the middle class.

  • (Applause.)

  • That's the economic argument.

  • But stark inequality is also corrosive to our

  • democratic ideal.

  • While the top one percent has amassed a bigger share

  • of wealth and income, too many families, in inner

  • cities and in rural counties, have been left

  • behind -- the laid-off factory worker; the

  • waitress or health care worker who's just barely

  • getting by and struggling to pay the bills --

  • convinced that the game is fixed against them, that

  • their government only serves the interests of

  • the powerful -- that's a recipe for more cynicism

  • and polarization in our politics.

  • But there are no quick

  • fixes to this long-term trend.

  • I agree, our trade should be fair and not just free.

  • But the next wave of economic dislocations

  • won't come from overseas.

  • It will come from the relentless pace of

  • automation that makes a lot of good, middle-class

  • jobs obsolete.

  • And so we're going to have to forge a new social

  • compact to guarantee all our kids the education

  • they need --

  • (applause)

  • -- to give workers the power to unionize for better

  • wages; to update the

  • social safety net to reflect the way we live

  • now, and make more reforms to the tax code so

  • corporations and individuals who reap the

  • most from this new economy don't avoid their

  • obligations to the country that's made their