CHICAGO, Jan 11: President Barack Obama warned the United States faces a stern test of its democracy, in a speech to the nation on Tuesday night (Jan 10) that was both a fond goodbye and a call to arm.
Capping his eight years in office, Obama returned to his adoptive hometown of Chicago to recast his “yes we can” campaign credo as “yes we did”.
He also called on supporters to pick up the torch and forge a new “social compact”.
“Democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity,” he said. “For all our outward differences, we are all in this together,” he said. “We rise or fall as one.”
“There have been moments throughout our history that threatened to rupture that solidarity,” the president said.
“The beginning of this century has been one of those times. A shrinking world, growing inequality; demographic change and the specter of terrorism – these forces haven’t just tested our security and prosperity, but our democracy as well,” he warned.
President Obama also called for the rejection of discrimination against Muslim Americans to loud applause.
“Protecting our way of life requires more than our military. Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear. So just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are.
“That’s why, for the past eight years, I’ve worked to put the fight against terrorism on a firmer legal footing. That’s why we’ve ended torture, worked to close Gitmo, and reform our laws governing surveillance to protect privacy and civil liberties. That’s why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans,” he said.
Turning to climate change, President Obama warned denying the reality of global warming amounted to a betrayal of generations to come.
“We can and should argue about the best approach to solve the problem,” he told the crowd in Chicago.
“But to simply deny the problem, not only betrays future generations, it betrays the essential spirit of this country, the essential spirit of innovation and practical problem-solving that guided our founders.”