President Obama’s Farewell Address

Seal of the President (location: The White House)

Last night, President Obama delivered his farewell address to the nation. The President traveled to Chicago, where he had begun his political career, and addressed a crowd of 18,000+ supporters and former staff at the McCormick Center, the same space where he had celebrated his re-election victory in 2012. He spoke from behind the Blue Goose with a giant Seal of the President of the United States behind him and an oversized American Flag in the cutaway. The speech lasted 53 minutes.

Full video and a transcript of the speech can be found here.

Three quick thoughts:

  1. It was a terrific speech. The President’s farewell address was a serious, thoughtful explanation about the power of democracy and the role of the citizen, the challenges we face as a society and our responsibility to participate in shaping the future. This will be a speech that people read over and over again in the years ahead — and it will get even better with age.
  2. The delivery was solid. The President was, well, Obama-like — meaning he took plenty of thoughtful pauses as he spoke, his tone was serious but also conversational, and though he was reading from a teleprompter it was clear he was speaking from the heart (cliche as that might sound).
  3. The setting for the speech wasn’t quite right. It was the kind of speech where you really needed to hear every word. Unfortunately, the event was held in a cavernous space with a crowd of raucous supporters (and a few protesters). There was a pretty significant echo when the President spoke, and an measurable delay between the time a line was delivered and the audience registered its response. I can’t help but think that the President should have delivered his farewell address in a more intimate setting, or from a location that carried greater meaning — a university campus or maybe Constitution Hall in Philadelphia. A different setting could have helped to reinforce the importance of the moment (and he still could have gathered his supporters and former staff for a campaign rally-type speech at a separate time and place).

A few questions:

- Why didn’t Hail to the Chief play when the President walked onto stage?

- Who gets the giant Seal of the President that was hanging behind the stage? That thing was awesome!

- Could the President have delivered the speech at an earlier time — so that more young people were able to watch?

- With the Inauguration only a few days off, the President-Elect (and everything swirling around his incoming administration) dominating the media discussion… what, if anything, will the White House (or anyone else) do to make sure as many people across the country hear this speech and consider the message President Obama was trying to deliver?

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