WASHINGTON — President Obama will strike an optimistic tone in his farewell address to the nation on Tuesday, calling on the American people to work together as citizens as he prepares to rejoin their ranks.
"The running thread through my career has been the notion that when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together in collective effort, things change for the better," Obama said in a Saturday radio address previewing the speech on Tuesday in Chicago.
"It’s easy to lose sight of that truth in the day-to-day back-and-forth of Washington and our minute-to-minute news cycles. But remember that America is a story told over a longer time horizon, in fits and starts, punctuated at times by hardship, but ultimately written by generations of citizens who’ve somehow worked together, without fanfare, to form a more perfect union."
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that Obama would talk about his accomplishments, but the farewell address would be mostly "forward-looking."
Every president since George Washington has delivered a farewell address, usually in Washington. Obama's will be unusual in that he'll return to his hometown of Chicago, addressing supporters at the McCormick Place convention center just a few miles from Grant Park, where he celebrated his election victory in 2008. First lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Biden will also attend.
In an interview with Chicago's WBBM television on Thursday, Obama said he was returning to Chicago because it was where he first discovered his public service mission.
"Everything that I have done subsequently — all the way through my presidency — was a direct outgrowth of what I learned in Chicago. I always say Chicago’s got challenges, but it really is really a microcosm of the country. There is no city is some ways that is more representative of both the difficulties, but more importantly, the promise of America," he said.
Alluding to one of his favored metaphors for the presidency — a relay race — Obama said he was now ready to hand over the baton. "We’ve run our leg in our long journey of progress, knowing that our work is and will always be unfinished," he said.