During his farewell speech on Tuesday night, President Barack Obama warned Americans to remain “vigilant, but not afraid” and to preserve and protect American democracy.
As Obama has done throughout his political career, during his farewell speech he used optimistic rhetoric that also included warnings that were clearly aimed at President-elect Donald Trump. Obama even spoke out against trends that he termed “corrosive to our democratic principles.”
“We remain the wealthiest, most powerful, and most respected nation on Earth. Our youth and drive, our diversity and openness, our boundless capacity for risk and reinvention mean that the future should be ours. But that potential will be realized only if our democracy works. Only if our politics reflects the decency of the our people. Only if all of us, regardless of our party affiliation or particular interest, help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now.”
The president’s entire address was in support of maintaining democracy and democratic principles. Obama described many things that he sees as limiting — and even threatening — the country’s ability to hold onto it’s democratic principles. Many of these things include income inequality, racism, polarization, and low levels of civic engagement.
Although the President-elect was only mentioned in the speech once by name, as Obama was emphasizing his commitment to the peaceful transition of power from one president to the next, he made several indirect references to his successor.
One notable instance was when the President explained that, “democracy can buckle when we give in to fear,” — a clear reference to the fear mongering against minority groups that defined Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. In another veiled reference to Mr. Trump, President Obama cautioned against isolationist and nationalist policies.
“For the fight against extremism and intolerance and sectarianism are of a piece with the fight against authoritarianism and nationalist aggression,” he said. “If the scope of freedom and respect for the rule of law shrinks around the world, the likelihood of war within and between nations increases, and our own freedoms will eventually be threatened.”