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Politics and policy

Obama pushes values and prods Trump in final, emotional address

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US First Lady Michelle Obama (C) and US President Barack Obama greet supporters as daughter Malia looks on after he delivered his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois on January 10, 2017. AFP PHOTO | JOSHUA LOTT

US First Lady Michelle Obama (C) and US President Barack Obama greet supporters as daughter Malia looks on after he delivered his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois on January 10, 2017. AFP PHOTO | JOSHUA LOTT 

By REUTERS

Posted  Wednesday, January 11   2017 at  09:56

In Summary

  • Obama gently prodded the public to embrace his vision of progress while repudiating some of the policies that Trump promoted during his campaign for the White House.

With a final call of his campaign mantra "Yes We Can," President Barack Obama urged Americans on Tuesday to stand up for US values and reject discrimination as the United States transitions to the presidency of Republican Donald Trump.

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In an emotional speech in which he thanked his family and declared his time as president the honour of his life, Obama gently prodded the public to embrace his vision of progress while repudiating some of the policies that Trump promoted during his campaign for the White House.

"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," Obama told a crowd of 18,000 in his hometown of Chicago, where he celebrated his election in 2008 as the first black president of the United States.

Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, proposed temporarily banning Muslims from entering the country, building a wall on the border with Mexico, upending a global deal to fight climate change and dismantling Obama's healthcare reform law.

Obama made clear his opposition to those positions during fiery campaign speeches for 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, but has struck a more conciliatory tone with Trump since the election.

In his farewell speech, he made clear his positions had not changed and he said his efforts to end the use of torture and close the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were part of a broader move to uphold US values.

"That's why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans," he said in a clear reference to Trump that drew applause.

He said bold action was needed to fight global warming and said "science and reason" mattered.

"If anyone can put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we’ve made to our healthcare system, that covers as many people at less cost, I will publicly support it," he said in another prodding challenge to his successor.

Trump has urged the Republican-controlled Congress to repeal the law right away.

Race and nostalgia

Obama, who came to office amid high expectations that his election would heal historic racial divides, acknowledged that was an impossible goal.

"After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America," he said. "Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic. Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society."

However, Obama said he remained hopeful about the work that a younger generation would do. "Yes we can," he said. "Yes we did."

In an indirect reference to the political work the Democratic Party will have to do to recover after Clinton's loss, Obama urged racial minorities to seek justice not only for themselves but also for "the middle-aged white man who from the outside may seem like he’s got advantages, but who’s seen his world upended by economic, cultural, and technological change."

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