President Obama will deliver a farewell address to Americans on Jan. 10 in Chicago, the White House announced Monday, allowing him to define his record before a national audience once more before Donald Trump takes office.
Not every U.S. president has delivered a farewell speech, but several leaders — George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower among them — have used the forum to issue cautionary warnings even as successors with somewhat different visions were preparing to assume the presidency.
In an email to supporters, Obama wrote, “I'm just beginning to write my remarks. But I'm thinking about them as a chance to say thank you for this amazing journey, to celebrate the ways you've changed this country for the better these past eight years, and to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here.”
Obama has devoted considerable time and attention to crafting the signature speeches of his presidency, including ones that have explored the role of race in American society, the parameters of U.S. military intervention overseas and how to respond to a wave of gun violence that has affected citizens and police officers alike.
The president held an extensive news conference last month before leaving for vacation in Hawaii, and he may yet hold another question-and-answer session with journalists before Inauguration Day. But the Chicago speech, which will probably be carried live by several media outlets, gives him an opportunity to sketch out his legacy on his own terms.
On Monday, the president suggested that he would highlight some of the economic and social progress the nation has made under his watch, saying, “Since 2009, we've faced our fair share of challenges, and come through them stronger.”
“That's because we have never let go of a belief that has guided us ever since our founding — our conviction that, together, we can change this country for the better,” he wrote, adding that he hoped Americans would watch online if they couldn't attend his speech in person.
“Because, for me, it's always been about you,” Obama concluded.