Obama’s final days in office foreshadow service as civilian

Obama's final days in office foreshadow service as civilian
Obama waves farewell to a crowd of more than 18,000 attendees. The speech was held at McCormick place, just two miles away from his 2008 election party. (Alex Whittler/MEDILL)

By Alex Whittler

President Obama will hold his final news conference Wednesday, two days before President-Elect Donald Trump is sworn into office.

The conference will likely be the last time Americans hear from the 44th president as a sitting commander in chief, although many view the events from his final days in office as examples of how Mr. Obama will serve the country as a civilian.

Obama has participated in a family service shelter in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day, welcomed the World Series winning Chicago Cubs to the White House and called upon young people to work together in spite of potential political differences during his final 10 days in office.

“The words were really empowering to look forward to the future,” said Katie Clark, a former campaign volunteer, after Obama’s Farewell speech Tuesday. “No one can say they can’t anymore. I think everyone can move forward saying, ‘I can and I will,'” Clark said.

In the address aimed at giving shaken Americans hope after November’s election results, Obama vowed the end of his term would not mark the end of his public service.

“It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy,” Obama said Tuesday. “Embrace the joyous task we have been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours because, for all our outward differences, we in fact all share the same proud type, the most important office in a democracy, citizen,” Obama said.

The speech, which lasted nearly an hour, took a nostalgic turn, as Obama told more than 18,000 people who filled the convention center they “can” and “will” be the positive change they hope to see in the world– a sure nod to his well-known “yes we can,” message which propelled him into the White House twice.

London Williams, 11, was first in line for the farewell address. Chicagoans waited hours in line the Saturday before the speech with hopes of getting their hands on a ticket. Even those who were able to score what many deemed a “golden ticket” were not guaranteed admission and early arrival was strongly encouraged. That’s why Williams said his early morning wake up call was well worth it.

“I woke up so early, I was tired but… I’m hopeful,” Williams said, looking forward to accept Obama’s call to action.

Since the address that Obama’s youngest daughter, Sasha, could not attend due to a school test the following day, the 2016 World Series Champions gave the president goodies aimed at converting him from a White Sox fan to a Cubs fan Monday.

The gifts included a number 44 jersey and the number 44 from Wrigley Field’s manual scoreboard– both acknowledge his status as the 44th president of the United States. The Cubs also presented Obama with a lifetime pass to the second oldest field in baseball history, and a “W” flag signed by all the players. Cubs president Theo Epstein said the W should be flown at Obama’s presidential library.

Also Monday, the President and First Lady visited a family shelter in southeast Washington, D.C. called Jobs have Priority, or JHP. They participated in the service project in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day.

The 28-unit apartment complex sheltered 45 families last year, 17 of which were placed in permanent housing and 27 adults staying within the shelter landed jobs. The Obama’s playhouse, which was initially installed at the White House in 2009 for daughters Sasha and Malia, was recently removed and donated to the JHP Naylor Park Program.

Looking forward, Obama and The First Lady are expected to welcome the president-elect and Melania Trump for tea before heading to the inauguration. After Trump is sworn in, the soon-to-be former president and Michelle will leave the capital.

Obama’s press secretary, John Earnest, has yet to give the details of their specific destination, although Obama and the First Lady have both said they look forward to a vacation in a warm area.

Photo at top: Obama waves farewell to a crowd of more than 18,000 attendees. The speech was held at McCormick place, just two miles away from his 2008 election party. (Alex Whittler/MEDILL)