WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will deliver his farewell address on Jan. 10 at McCormick Place, coming home for the last time as president to the city where he launched his political career.
On the same night, Obama also will host a reunion of “Obama Alumni,” staffers and volunteers from across the nation who have worked in his Illinois U.S. Senate office, his White House, his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns or related political operations, according to a copy of an invitation obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
“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,” Obama said in a statement on Monday.
“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.
“Since 2009, we’ve faced our fair share of challenges, and come through them stronger. 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. So I hope you’ll join me one last time.”
Obama never mentions the name of President-elect Donald Trump, who has vowed to unravel Obama’s signature programs, starting with Obamacare.
Obama’s team has been saying that the president plans to “run through the tape” up to Jan. 20. To that point, Obama will head to the Capitol on Wednesday to huddle with Congressional Democrats on strategies to keep intact crucial elements of his signature health insurance program.
Booking Obama’s evening presidential farewell at McCormick Place — where he celebrated his 2012 re-election with a massive rally — suggests the Jan. 10 event is a giant send-off days before he leaves office at noon Jan. 20.
The Sun-Times earlier reported that Obama’s farewell would be in his adopted hometown next week.
Obama, and his administration, has been highlighting his big achievements over two terms as his presidency is coming to a close. His legacy will be a main theme of his farewell speech.
In a series of New Year’s Day posts on Twitter, Obama rolled out his high points, foreshadowing what he will talk about next week: Obamacare, jobs, economic recovery, reducing use of fossil fuels, marriage equality and bringing troops back to the U.S. from war zones.
By coming home for what is expected to be his last big speech as president, Obama is closing the circle.
“Chicago was formative for him and, obviously, his political career. It was from here that he waged his battle for the presidency,” said David Axelrod, his longtime friend who was an Obama White House senior adviser.
“And it will be here, through his presidential center and foundation that he will continue his work. So it makes sense, as he takes leave of the presidency, to come home to where the journey began,” Axelrod said.
The Obama family is staying in Washington until Sasha, 15, a sophomore at the private Sidwell Friends school here, graduates from high school. Obama’s taxpayer-funded government office will be in D.C. while he is still based here.
Obama and first lady Michelle will remain closely connected to Chicago through his Obama Center. The library, museum, meeting space and foundation headquarters will be built in Jackson Park.
Obama has been systematically saying goodbye over the past months. He hosted a White House reception for his early Chicago supporters last October.
Obama noted in his statement that presidential farewell speeches started with George Washington in 1796.
On Jan. 15, 2009, President George W. Bush gave his farewell address from the White House, summing up his eight years in office — shaped largely by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Bush’s farewell speech was 13 minutes and 36 seconds.Tweets by @lynnsweet