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President Obama Cautions Democracy is Fragile, Gets Emotional in Farewell Speech to America


He's been known for his unflappability, his cool, at times aloof, demeanor—but in his final speech to America, President Obama got emotional, tripped up when it came time to thank his family.

However, before he broke down, Obama spent the bulk of his speech, which lasted just under one hour, painting the picture of a country torn apart by citizens stuck in their own “bubbles,” heading down a road of isolationism and disillusionment. As he defended his record, he gave a distinct feeling of peril up ahead.

Eight years ago, it was all about optimism—tonight, it felt like a warning.

Standing in front of a humongous presidential seal, Obama touched on what he considered his accomplishments—LGBT rights, climate change, reversing a recession, boosting the auto industry, preventing a terrorist attack on U.S. soil—but he most pointedly challenged people to stop hiding in plain sight.

Image Credit: Joshua Lott/AFP/Getty Images

One line that got a standing ovation from the crowd of thousands was when he chastised Americans for talking to one another on social media, saying:

“If you're tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try to talk to one in real life.”

To many it felt like a pointed burn at President-elect Donald Trump, whose name he mentioned just once:

“In ten days, the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy: 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.”

At the utterance of the mere word “Trump,” the Chicago arena erupted in boos.

But it was the final part of the address that ultimately got Obama unhinged. Turning to Michelle Obama, seated in the first row, he thanked her for being his partner. She got a standing ovation.

“Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, girl of the Southside. For the past 25 years, you have not only been my wife and mother of my children, you have been my best friend.”

Obama had to get out his handkerchief to wipe away some tears. Daughter Malia had to do the same.

Michelle Obama holds her daughter Malia as President Barack Obama speaks during his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois. Image Credit: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Noticeably absent was younger daughter, Sasha, 15. Wondering where she could be quickly became an internet meme, and its own hashtag:

But her absence didn't stop her dad from directly speaking to both of his daughters:

“Malia and Sasha, under the strangest of circumstances, you have become two amazing young women, smart and beautiful, but more importantly, kind and thoughtful and full of passion. You wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. Of all that I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud to be your dad.”

With ten days to go until he leaves the White House and hands power to Trump, Obama's speech was part of a tradition of “farewell” addresses given by presidents since George Washington.

And if eight years of Obama seems like a long time to look back on, it is—at least in terms of how much he's aged while in office:

You can read the entire Obama goodbye speech here.

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