B1 Intermediate US 1884 Folder Collection
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The President: Hello, Chicago!
It's good to be home!
Thank you, everybody.
Thank you.
Thank you so much.
Thank you.
All right, everybody sit down.
We're on live TV here.
I've got to move.
You can tell that I'm a lame duck
because nobody is following instructions.
Everybody have a seat.
My fellow Americans --
-- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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 --
-- 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.
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.
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.
I committed to President-elect Trump that
my administration would ensure the smoothest
possible transition, just as President
Bush did for me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Because that, after all, is
why we serve.
Not to score points or take credit, but to make
people's lives better.
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.
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 --
-- 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
very success possible.
We can argue about how to best
achieve these goals.
But we can't be complacent about the
goals themselves.
For if we don't create opportunity for all
people, the disaffection and division that has
stalled our progress will only sharpen in
years to come.
There's a second threat to our democracy -- and this
one is as old as our nation itself.
After my election, there was talk of a
post-racial America.
And such a vision, however well-intended, was
never realistic.
Race remains a potent and often divisive force
in our society.
Now, I've lived long enough to know that race
relations are better than they were 10, or 20, or 30
years ago, no matter what some folks say.
You can see it not just in statistics,
you see it in the attitudes of young
Americans across the political spectrum.
But we're not where we need to be.
And all of us have more work to do.
If every economic issue is
framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle
class and an undeserving minority, then workers of
all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps
while the wealthy withdraw further into their
private enclaves.
If we're unwilling to invest in
the children of immigrants, just because they don't
look like us, we will diminish the prospects of
our own children -- because those brown kids
will represent a larger and larger share of
America's workforce.
And we have shown that our
economy doesn't have to be a zero-sum game.
Last year, incomes rose for all races, all age
groups, for men and for women.
So if we're going to be serious about race going
forward, we need to uphold laws against
discrimination -- in hiring, and in housing,
and in education, and in the criminal
justice system.
That is what our Constitution and our
highest ideals require.
But laws alone won't be enough.
Hearts must change.
It won't change overnight.
Social attitudes oftentimes take
generations to change.
But if our democracy is to work in this increasingly
diverse nation, then each one of us need to try to
heed the advice of a great character in American
fiction -- Atticus Finch --
-- who said "You never really understand a person until
you consider things from his point of view...until
you climb into his skin and walk around in it."
For blacks and other minority groups, it means
tying our own very real struggles for justice to
the challenges that a lot of people in this country
face -- not only the refugee, or the immigrant,
or the rural poor, or the transgender American, but
also the middle-aged white guy who, from the outside,
may seem like he's got advantages, but has seen
his world upended by economic and cultural and
technological change.
We have to pay attention, and listen.
For white Americans, it means
acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim
Crow didn't suddenly vanish in the '60s --
-- that when minority groups voice
discontent, they're not just engaging in reverse
racism or practicing political correctness.
When they wage peaceful protest, they're not
demanding special treatment but the equal
treatment that our Founders promised.
native-born Americans, it
means reminding ourselves that the stereotypes about
immigrants today were said, almost word for
word, about the Irish, and Italians, and Poles -- who
it was said we're going to destroy the fundamental
character of America.
And as it turned out, America wasn't weakened by
the presence of these newcomers; these newcomers
embraced this nation's creed, and this nation
was strengthened.
So regardless of the station that we
occupy, we all have to try harder.
We all have to start with the premise that each of
our fellow citizens loves this country just as much
as we do; that they value hard work and family just
like we do; that their children are just as
curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own.
And that's not easy to do.
For too many of us, it's become safer to retreat
into our own bubbles, whether in our
neighborhoods or on college campuses, or
places of worship, or especially our social
media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us
and share the same political outlook and
never challenge our assumptions.
The rise of naked partisanship, and
increasing economic and regional stratification,
the splintering of our media into a channel for
every taste -- all this makes this great sorting
seem natural, even inevitable.
And increasingly, we become so secure in our
bubbles that we start accepting only
information, whether it's true or not, that fits our
opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the
evidence that is out there.
And this trend represents a
third threat to our democracy.
But politics is a battle of ideas.
That's how our democracy was designed.
In the course of a healthy debate, we prioritize
different goals, and the different means
of reaching them.
But without some common baseline of facts, without
a willingness to admit new information, and concede
that your opponent might be making a fair point,
and that science and reason matter --
-- then we're going to keep talking past
each other, and we'll make common ground and
compromise impossible.
And isn't that part of what so often
makes politics dispiriting?
How can elected officials rage about deficits when
we propose to spend money on preschool for kids, but
not when we're cutting taxes for corporations?
How do we excuse ethical lapses
in our own party, but pounce when the other party does
the same thing?
It's not just dishonest, this selective sorting of
the facts; it's self-defeating.
Because, as my mother used to tell me, reality has a
way of catching up with you.
Take the challenge of climate change.
In just eight years, we've halved our dependence on
foreign oil; we've doubled our renewable energy;
we've led the world to an agreement that has the
promise to save this planet.
But without bolder action, our
children won't have time to debate the existence of
climate change.
They'll be busy dealing with its effects: more
environmental disasters, more economic disruptions,
waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary.
Now, we can and should argue about the best
approach to solve the problem.
But to simply deny the problem not only betrays
future generations, it betrays the essential
spirit of this country -- the essential spirit of
innovation and practical problem-solving that
guided our Founders.
It is that spirit, born of the
Enlightenment, that made us an economic powerhouse
-- the spirit that took flight at Kitty Hawk and
Cape Canaveral; the spirit that cures disease and put
a computer in every pocket.
It's that spirit -- a faith in reason, and
enterprise, and the primacy of right over
might -- that allowed us to resist the lure of
fascism and tyranny during the Great Depression; that
allowed us to build a post-World War II order
with other democracies, an order based not just on
military power or national affiliations but built on
principles -- the rule of law, human rights, freedom
of religion, and speech, and assembly, and an
independent press.
That order is now being challenged --
first by violent fanatics who claim to speak for
Islam; more recently by autocrats in foreign
capitals who see free markets and open
democracies and and civil society itself as a
threat to their power.
The peril each poses to our democracy is more
far-reaching than a car bomb or a missile.
It represents the fear of change; the fear of people
who look or speak or pray differently; a contempt
for the rule of law that holds leaders accountable;
an intolerance of dissent and free thought; a belief
that the sword or the gun or the bomb or the
propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what's
true and what's right.
Because of the extraordinary courage of
our men and women in uniform, because of our
intelligence officers, and law enforcement, and
diplomats who support our troops --
-- no foreign terrorist organization has
successfully planned and executed an attack on our
homeland these past eight years.
And although Boston and Orlando and San
Bernardino and Fort Hood remind us of how dangerous
radicalization can be, our law enforcement agencies
are more effective and vigilant than ever.
We have taken out tens of thousands of terrorists --
including bin Laden.
The global coalition we're leading
against ISIL has taken out their leaders, and taken
away about half their territory.
ISIL will be destroyed, and no one who threatens
America will ever be safe.
And to all who serve or have served,
it has been the honor of my lifetime to be your
And we all owe you a deep debt of gratitude.
But protecting our way of
life, that's not just the job of our military.
Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear.
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 that's why, for the past eight
years, I've worked to put the fight against
terrorism on a firmer legal footing.
That's why we've ended torture, worked to close
Gitmo, reformed our laws governing surveillance to
protect privacy and civil liberties.
That's why I reject discrimination
against Muslim Americans, who are just as patriotic
as we are.
That's why we cannot withdraw from big
global fights -- to expand democracy, and human
rights, and women's rights, and LGBT rights.
No matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how
expedient ignoring such values may seem, that's
part of defending America.
For the fight against extremism and intolerance
and sectarianism and chauvinism are of a piece
with the fight against authoritarianism and
nationalist aggression.
If the scope of freedom and respect for the rule
of law shrinks around the world, the likelihood of
war within and between nations increases, and our
own freedoms will eventually be threatened.
So let's be vigilant, but not afraid.
ISIL will try to kill innocent people.
But they cannot defeat America unless we betray
our Constitution and our principles in the fight.
Rivals like Russia or China cannot
match our influence around the world -- unless we
give up what we stand for --
-- and turn ourselves into just another big country that
bullies smaller neighbors.
Which brings me to my final point: Our democracy
is threatened whenever we take it for granted.
All of us, regardless of party,
should be throwing ourselves into the task of
rebuilding our democratic institutions.
When voting rates in America are some
of the lowest among advanced democracies, we
should be making it easier, not harder,
to vote.
When trust in our institutions is low,
we should reduce the corrosive influence of
money in our politics, and insist on the principles
of transparency and ethics in public service.
When Congress is dysfunctional, we
should draw our congressional districts to
encourage politicians to cater to common sense and
not rigid extremes.
But remember, none of this happens
on its own.
All of this depends on our participation; on each of
us accepting the responsibility of
citizenship, regardless of which way the pendulum of
power happens to be swinging.
Our Constitution is a
remarkable, beautiful gift.
But it's really just a piece of parchment.
It has no power on its own.
We, the people, give it power.
We, the people, give it meaning.
With our participation, and with the choices that
we make, and the alliances that we forge.
Whether or not we stand up for
our freedoms.
Whether or not we respect and enforce the
rule of law.
That's up to us.
America is no fragile thing.
But the gains of our long journey to freedom
are not assured.
In his own farewell address, George Washington
wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our
safety, prosperity, and liberty, but "from
different causes and from different quarters much
pains will be taken...to weaken in your minds the
conviction of this truth."
And so we have to preserve this truth with "jealous
anxiety;" that we should reject "the first dawning
of every attempt to alienate any portion of
our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred
ties" that make us one.
America, we weaken those ties when we
allow our political dialogue to become so
corrosive that people of good character aren't even
willing to enter into public service; so coarse
with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are
seen not just as misguided but as malevolent.
We weaken those ties when we define some of us as
more American than others; when we write off the
whole system as inevitably corrupt, and when we sit
back and blame the leaders we elect without examining
our own role in electing them.
It falls to each of us to be those
those anxious, jealous guardians of our
democracy; to embrace the joyous task we've been
given to continually try to improve this great
nation of ours.
Because for all our outward differences, we,
in fact, all share the same proud title, the most
important office in a democracy: Citizen.
Citizen. So, you see, that's
what our democracy demands. It needs you.
Not just when there's an election, not just when
your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the
full span of a lifetime.
If you're tired of arguing with strangers on the
Internet, try talking with one of them in real life.
If something needs fixing, then lace up
your shoes and do some organizing.
If you're disappointed by your
elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some
signatures, and run for office yourself.
Show up.
Dive in.
Stay at it.
Sometimes you'll win.
Sometimes you'll lose.
Presuming a reservoir of goodness in other people,
that can be a risk, and there will be times when
the process will disappoint you.
But for those of us fortunate enough to have
been a part of this work, and to see it up close,
let me tell you, it can energize and inspire.
And more often than not, your faith in America --
and in Americans -- will be confirmed.
Mine sure has been.
Over the course of these eight years, I've seen the
hopeful faces of young graduates and our newest
military officers.
I have mourned with grieving families
searching for answers, and found grace in a
Charleston church.
I've seen our scientists help a paralyzed man
regain his sense of touch.
I've seen wounded warriors who at points were given
up for dead walk again.
I've seen our doctors and volunteers rebuild after
earthquakes and stop pandemics in their tracks.
I've seen the youngest of children remind us through
their actions and through their generosity of our
obligations to care for refugees, or work for
peace, and, above all, to look out for each other.
So that faith that I placed all those
years ago, not far from here, in the power of
ordinary Americans to bring about change -- that
faith has been rewarded in ways I could not have
possibly imagined.
And I hope your faith has, too.
Some of you here tonight or watching at home, you
were there with us in 2004, in 2008, 2012 --
-- maybe you still can't believe we
pulled this whole thing off.
Let me tell you, you're not the only ones.
Michelle --
-- Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, girl of the South Side --
-- for the past 25 years, you have not
only been my wife and mother of my children, you
have been my best friend.
You took on a role you didn't ask for
and you made it your own, with grace and with grit
and with style and good humor.
You made the White House a place that
belongs to everybody.
And the new generation sets its sights
higher because it has you as a role model.
So you have made me proud.
And you have made the country proud.
Malia and Sasha, under the strangest
of circumstances, you have become two
amazing young women.
You are smart and you are beautiful, but more
importantly, you are kind and you are thoughtful and
you are full of passion.
You wore the burden of years in the
spotlight so easily.
Of all that I've done in my life, I am most proud
to be your dad.
To Joe Biden --
(applause) --
the scrappy kid from Scranton who became Delaware's
favorite son -- you were the first decision I made
as a nominee, and it was the best.
Not just because you have been a
great Vice President, but because in the bargain, I
gained a brother.
And we love you and Jill like family, and your
friendship has been one of the great joys
of our lives.
To my remarkable staff: For
eight years -- and for some of you, a whole lot
more -- I have drawn from your energy, and every day
I tried to reflect back what you displayed --
heart, and character, and idealism.
I've watched you grow up, get married, have kids,
start incredible new journeys of your own.
Even when times got tough and frustrating, you never
let Washington get the better of you.
You guarded against cynicism.
And the only thing that makes me prouder than all
the good that we've done is the thought of all the
amazing things that you're
going to achieve from here.
And to all of you out there --
every organizer who moved to an unfamiliar town, every
kind family who welcomed them in, every volunteer
who knocked on doors, every young person who
cast a ballot for the first time, every American
who lived and breathed the hard work of change -- you
are the best supporters and organizers anybody
could ever hope for, and I will be forever grateful.
Because you did change the world.
You did.
And that's why I leave this stage tonight even
more optimistic about this country than
when we started.
Because I know our work has not only helped so
many Americans, it has inspired so many Americans
-- especially so many young people out there --
to believe that you can make a difference --
-- to hitch your wagon to something
bigger than yourselves.
Let me tell you, this generation coming up --
unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic --
I've seen you in every corner of the country.
You believe in a fair,
and just, and inclusive America.
You know that constant change has been
America's hallmark; that it's not something to fear
but something to embrace.
You are willing to carry this hard work of
democracy forward.
You'll soon outnumber all of us, and I believe as a
result the future is in good hands.
My fellow Americans, it has been the
honor of my life to serve you.
I won't stop.
In fact, I will be right there with you, as a
citizen, for all my remaining days.
But for now, whether you are young or whether
you're young at heart, I do have one final ask of
you as your President -- the same thing I asked
when you took a chance on me eight years ago.
I'm asking you to believe.
Not in my ability to bring about change
-- but in yours.
I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written
into our founding documents; that idea
whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit
sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who
marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those
who planted flags from foreign battlefields to
the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every
American whose story is not yet written:
Yes, we can.
Yes, we did.
Yes, we can.
Thank you.
God bless you.
May God continue to bless the United States of America.
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Farewell Address to the American People

1884 Folder Collection
Rudy Hsieh published on January 24, 2017
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