Formally announcing the event in an email to supporters Monday, Obama said that the speech, inspired by George Washington’s farewell address in 1796, will both express gratitude and lay out a path forward, as Democrats attempt to recover from their electoral losses and mount an effective response to Trump’s presidency.
“I’m just beginning to write my remarks,” Obama wrote. “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.”
The speech, likely his final public address as president, is scheduled for next Tuesday, Jan. 10, at McCormick Place, the city’s main convention center and the site of his 2012 re-election victory rally.
The tradition of a farewell address dates back to Washington, who “set the precedent for a peaceful, democratic transfer of power,” Obama wrote.
President George W. Bush gave his own farewell address five days before leaving office in 2009, celebrating “America’s character” and giving his “best wishes to President-elect Obama, his wife Michelle, and their two beautiful girls.”
On Sunday, Obama posted a series of tweets celebrating his administration’s achievements, much of which will be jeopardized under the incoming Trump administration.
Democrats are already preparing for a battle over the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans have repeatedly pledged to repeal. On Wednesday, Obama plans to meet with Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill to discuss strategy.
But next week’s speech will likely strike an optimistic and cordial tone. Obama has been fiercely committed to ensuring a peaceful transition of power, even as Trump has violated norms and set alarming precedents during the transition period. When asked about his concerns about Trump, Obama has mostly demurred.
“Since 2009, we’ve faced our fair share of challenges, and come through them stronger,” Obama wrote on Monday. “That’s because we have never let go of a belief that has guided us ever since our founding — our conviction that, together, we can change this country for the better.”