Race remains divisive force in society: Obama

By Reuters   January 11, 2017 | 10:41 am GMT+7

Obama encouraged supporters demoralized by the election of Republican Donald Trump to feel optimistic about the country's future.

"Social attitudes often take generations to change but if our democracy is to work the way it should in this increasingly diverse nation, then each one of us need to heed the advice of a great character in American fiction, Atticus Finch," U.S. President Barack Obama said in his farewell speech to the nation on Tuesday (January 10) night in Chicago, referring one of the major characters in the American class, "To Kill a Mockingbird" by the late Harper Lee.

 

The Democratic president is feeling some nostalgia as he prepares to leave the White House on Jan. 20 after eight years in office. His top policy achievements were jolted by the Nov. 8 election of Trump, who has threatened to undo Obama's actions on issues ranging from advancing healthcare reform to curbing climate change.

First lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, his wife, Jill Biden, and many current and former White House staff members and campaign workers were expected to attend the speech.

"The president is not one to be overly sentimental, but given the circumstances, I think it would be unrealistic to expect anybody to not feel some nostalgia for this moment," his spokesman, Josh Earnest told reporters traveling with Obama.

U.S. President Barack Obama hugs Vice-President Joe Biden as Bidens wife Jill looks on after Obama delivered a farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. January 10, 2017. REUTERS/John Gress

U.S. President Barack Obama hugs Vice-President Joe Biden as Biden's wife Jill looks on after Obama delivered a farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. January 10, 2017. Photo by Reuters/John Gress

Even the final trip on the presidential aircraft was a moment tinged with wistfulness. It was Obama's 445th trip on the presidential aircraft, a perk he has said he will miss when he leaves office. All told, he will have spent more than 2,800 hours or 116 days on the plane during his presidency, Earnest said.

Obama has said he plans to reflect on his administration's achievements in his address, encouraging supporters to keep fighting for issues like the environment, gay rights and economic equality.

Obama plans to remain in Washington for the next two years while his younger daughter, Sasha, finishes high school. He has indicated he wants to give Trump the same space that his predecessor, Republican President George W. Bush, gave Obama after leaving office by not maintaining a high public profile.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) is joined onstage by first lady Michelle Obama and daughter Malia, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden, after his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) is joined onstage by first lady Michelle Obama and daughter Malia, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden, after his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. January 10, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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