President Obama delivered his farewell address in Chicago on Tuesday night. This is not quite what he said.
This will definitely not be the last coherent speech you hear for at least four years.
I will begin by thanking the city of Chicago and quoting from the Constitution — by no means a quaint, outdated document that you will never hear from again.
I am here to tell you that everything will be fine. Probably. I haven’t read the news or gone online in over six weeks, but it’s not because I’m terrified of what I might see. I believe in America and the durability of my landmark achievements and in the human spirit, and the children, and things.
If I had told you eight years ago about all the things we achieved — reversing the recession, reviving the auto industry, winning all kinds of equality, I know what you would have said: “Make certain that you have not created these accomplishments by means of easily reversed executive orders.” No, I’m sorry, you would have said, “Wow.”
Sure, for every two steps forward, it feels as though we take one step back. History is like a bad line dance in that regard. “The long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion.” That last phrase made no sense, but “the arc of history is long but bends towards justice” was taken, so I had to change it. I know that under the next president, plagiarism is going to be a great concern.
America is great. But we need more solidarity. The founders fought, sure. They argued, sure. They destroyed each other’s careers and shot each other, sure. I forget where I was going with this, but I think the point of it was that the founders would have expected us to compromise at some point. Or that I am supposed to be rowing to Weehawken to meet with Donald Trump about something.
In 10 days, we will all get to see a peaceful transfer of power! That will be great, and we will all enjoy it. Why is everyone booing and rending their garments?
The next president must remember that we all need economic opportunity, not economic anxiety — which, once you have enough of it, becomes strangely indistinguishable from racism. I look forward to studying this as a private citizen.
Speaking of racism, when I was elected a lot of people thought that racism was over. Looks like we might have gotten ahead of ourselves a bit there.
Unrelatedly, have I congratulated Donald Trump, who rose to prominence by promulgating a racist birther conspiracy theory, on his election as our next president? Congratulations, unrelatedly.
Where was I? Oh, yes: People are insured now. Literally now, as I say this. I have no idea about tomorrow, or the next day. It is important to live in the moment. That’s sort of a theme of this whole speech, actually. Live in this moment. If you want to do something to fix your kidney, do it quickly!
But, hey, if someone has something measurably better than Obamacare, I’ll gladly support it. That was what I said during the process of passing Obamacare, too, but nobody really went for it then either.
Some say that our way of life is under threat, but I think our democracy has never been stranger. I have not been watching the confirmation hearing for our new attorney general, but I bet if I had, he definitely would have agreed that if the president violated the emoluments clause, he would take action. It’s little things like this that help me feel that everything will be all right.
Still, I know a lot of Americans don’t have it easy. It is getting harder and harder to join the middle class. I believe in fair trade. However, we do notice that it is not other countries that are taking our jobs, right? It’s machines. That is fairly obvious. We should not be building a wall. We should be gearing up to fight the machines: maybe with skills, maybe with larger machines, maybe by harnessing dinosaurs — I don’t know. Or: we could build a wall between us and the future?
Let me take this time to thank my family. Honestly, the only reason I am not panicked and terrified is that I am married to Michelle. If Michelle Robinson chose you, you too would believe that you possessed a charmed life in which miracles were possible and nothing truly bad could ever happen.
We should work to protect the rights and futures of the children of immigrants. They’re going to be a larger and larger portion of the workforce! But for us to do that, hearts must change. To quote Atticus Finch, “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.” (I haven’t read “Go Set A Watchman,” but I am looking forward to getting around to it after I leave office. Atticus Finch: Now there’s one character who will never turn out to be a secret racist.)
We also need to burst out of our bubbles. Opinion bubbles, that is. Not the ozone layer. But I’m sure that’s clear, especially to whomever Trump picked to head the Environmental Protection Agency, who definitely would not say things like “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.”
Is this a good time to reiterate that I have not read a newspaper in six weeks? Not because I’m scared of what I might find, just — you know. Sometimes you have to take a breather.
Everything will be fine, and nothing is on fire, and today, literally today, a noted vaccine denier did not announce he was forming a commission on vaccine safety to bring back measles. That wouldn’t happen, because that isn’t a partisan issue. That’s just the lives of children.
What a time it’s been. The American idea is precious. Where else could something like this happen? The nation’s first black president, Barack Hussein Obama, followed by its first-ever king!
I mean, yes we can, and yes we did.