Image for post
Image for post

You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.

My fellow Americans,

It’s a long-standing tradition for the sitting president of the United States to leave a parting letter in the Oval Office for the American elected to take his or her place. It’s a letter meant to share what we know, what we’ve learned, and what small wisdom may help our successor bear the great responsibility that comes with the highest office in our land, and the leadership of the free world.

But before I leave my note for our 45th president, I wanted to say one final thank you for the honor of serving as your 44th. Because all that I’ve learned in my time in office, I’ve learned from you. …

Image for post
Image for post

President Obama’s letter to the American people on the progress we’ve made together

Editor’s note: As we look back on the past eight years, President Obama asked each member of his Cabinet to write an Exit Memo on the progress we’ve made, their vision for the country’s future, and the work that remains in order to achieve that vision. Read President Obama’s cover letter to the American people, then explore each of the Cabinet Exit Memos here.

To my fellow Americans,

Eight years ago, America faced a moment of peril unlike any we’d seen in decades.

A spiraling financial crisis threatened to plunge an economy in recession into a deep depression. The very heartbeat of American manufacturing — the American auto industry — was on the brink of collapse. In some communities, nearly one in five Americans were out of work. Nearly 180,000 American troops were serving in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the mastermind of the worst terror attack on American soil remained at large. And on challenges from health care to climate change, we’d been kicking the can down the road for way too long. …

Image for post
Image for post

In 1796, as George Washington set the precedent for a peaceful, democratic transfer of power, he also set a precedent by penning a farewell address to the American people. And over the 220 years since, many American presidents have followed his lead.

On Tuesday, January 10, I’ll go home to Chicago to say my grateful farewell to you, even if you can’t be there in person.

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. …

Image for post
Image for post

I’m headed to North Carolina A&T State University for an important conversation tonight — I hope you’ll join me.

One of my favorite things about launching our My Brother’s Keeper initiative has been spending time with some outstanding young people from across the country. Whether it’s shooting hoops with the young people in our White House Mentorship and Leadership program, or chatting over soul food with teens from New Orleans, I’ve gotten to know some great kids who are succeeding despite the odds.

Many of them are going through the same issues I faced growing up. I was angry about not having a dad in the house — something I didn’t realize at the time. I made dumb mistakes. I didn’t always follow the straight path. But I was fortunate. I had people in my life who encouraged me — my mom, my grandparents, my teachers. …

Image for post
Image for post

Wherever I go these days, at home or abroad, people ask me the same question: what is happening in the American political system? How has a country that has benefited — perhaps more than any other — from immigration, trade and technological innovation suddenly developed a strain of anti-immigrant, anti-innovation protectionism? Why have some on the far left and even more on the far right embraced a crude populism that promises a return to a past that is not possible to restore — and that, for most Americans, never existed at all?

It’s true that a certain anxiety over the forces of globalisation, immigration, technology, even change itself, has taken hold in America. It’s not new, nor is it dissimilar to a discontent spreading throughout the world, often manifested in scepticism towards international institutions, trade agreements and immigration. It can be seen in Britain’s recent vote to leave the European Union and the rise of populist parties around the world. …

Image for post
Image for post
President Barack Obama tours MogoOrganic farm with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, right, and Morgan Hoenig, left, in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, April 27, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

I’ve spent most of my life living in big cities. But the truth is, a lot of what’s shaped me came from my grandparents who grew up on the prairie in Kansas. They taught me the kind of values that don’t always make headlines, let alone the daily back-and-forth in Washington. Honesty and responsibility. Hard work and toughness against adversity. Keeping your word, and giving back to your community. And treating folks with respect, even if you disagree with them.

They’re the same values I saw as a Senator in Illinois, driving long country roads to visit with folks in small towns. They’re the same values I saw in Iowa, campaigning for this office in community centers and coffee shops and high school cafeterias. They’re the same values that have inspired me every day as President, in visits to all 50 states and letters I read every night from every corner of this nation. And it’s only reinforced my belief that the values that drive our small towns and rural communities are the same ones that drive America as a whole. …

Image for post
Image for post

Whenever I hear people make gloomy claims about how America is on the downswing, they’re either out to promote themselves, or talking about some alternate reality. Think about it — if you had to choose any time in the course of human history to be alive, you’d choose this one. Right here, right now, right in America.

New technologies and new innovations are transforming the way we live, opening up incredible opportunities to create, to discover, and to do what we never thought possible.

At the same time, we have to navigate these changes in a smart way. They also can be disruptive, even scary — and sometimes, they leave folks behind. …

Over the past eight years, we’ve made incredible progress in our economic recovery. Our businesses have created more than 15 million new jobs since early 2010. Twenty million people now have the security of health coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Together, we’ve turned around an economy in freefall and put it on a stronger, more durable course.

And last week, we got even more great news: the policies we’ve put in place since the recession have started to pay off in real ways for American families. Take a look at these charts:

Image for post
Image for post

Last year, across every race and age group in America, incomes rose and the poverty rate fell. Folks’ typical household incomes rose by about $2,800 — which is the fastest rate on record. The good news is that it went up for everybody, with folks at the middle and bottom of incomes seeing the largest gains, and folks at the very top seeing the smallest gains. …

Image for post
Image for post
Photo ©Marc PoKempner, 1995

My journey to the White House began as a community organizer in a poor neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, working with people to help improve their lives.

An organizer’s work comes with little sleep, little pay, and a lot of sacrifice. There are many days of disappointment. But there are also days when you see real change. A family that can afford to see a doctor. A teacher who sparks a student’s love of learning. A neighborhood that’s a little healthier and safer for our children. …

Image for post
Image for post

Last December, a young mother from Illinois wrote to me with a plea for help. Even after dropping out of school and taking a part-time job to provide for her family, she still struggled to make ends meet, in part because of the cost of diapers for her newborn baby.

I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be a parent that has to choose between diapers and other basic expenses. Access to clean diapers isn’t just important for a child’s health and safety. …

About

Pres. Obama (Archives)

This account will be maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and will serve as an archive of President Obama’s content.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store