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奥巴马卸任演讲原文(中英文)

已有 2896 次阅读 2017-1-12 09:29 |系统分类:海外观察


本文由小编整理自美国ABC电视台

意得辑专家视点负责原文翻译  封面图片来自网络


说起奥巴马,之于美国总统,更多人提及的是他超强的演说天赋。他的每篇演讲稿,包括即兴演讲都堪称教材级别的。就在今天可能是能听到他最后一大众面前的演讲了——卸任演讲。

作为收场,奥巴马在这次的芝加哥演讲上只是轻描淡写的总结了自己八年的工作,不过分夸张的提了一下自己的成就。说到Michele 的时候也展现了总统感性的一面。

奥巴马在这次演讲中还提到中俄等竞争对手,无法与美国在世界影响力上相提并论。

以下是奥巴马演讲原文,感觉这要是都能看懂了写份SCI简直是小case。


中文版


回家真好!


美利坚的同胞们,米歇尔和我在过去几周里,一直被诸多美好祝福所感动。今晚是时候轮到我向你们致谢了。不论我们是是否彼此遇见,还是从未有过共识,但我还想说,美国人民——包括在起居室和学校,在农场和工厂,在晚宴和边远的哨所——是让我保持诚实、饱受鼓舞和前进不停的力量。每天,我都在向你们学习。你们让我成为一个更好的总统,也成为一个更好的人。


我在二十多岁的时候第一次来到芝加哥,那时的我还在揣摩对自我的认知和生存的意义。就在离这儿不远的邻地,在钢铁厂被关闭的阴影中,我开始和教会团体共事。正是在这些街道上,我见证了信仰的力量,以及面对困难与失去的劳动人民的沉默的尊严。在这里,我学到了只有当普通民众加入、参与,并团结起来要求改变时,改变才会悄然来临。


任职8年的总统之后,它依然为我所信仰。而且这不仅是信仰,还是美国人想法的灵魂——我们在自治政府上的大胆实验。
我们坚信生来平等,造物者赋予他们若干不可剥夺的权利,包括生存的权利、自由的权利和追求幸福的权利。
这些权利虽然不言而喻,但从来不会被自主执行;我们,人民,通过民主制度,才能形成一个更完美的合众国。这是建国先贤们留给我们最伟大的礼物,通过汗水、辛勤工作、想象力,以及一如既往的团结共同完善一个更伟大的美好。


240 年来,国家对公民的呼唤给了每一代年轻人工作和目标。它引领爱国者选择共和而非暴政,引领先驱者探索西部,引领奴隶勇敢地走向自由;正是它引领移民和难民穿越大洋和格兰德河来到这里;正是它促使妇女参政,工人联合;它也是士兵们在奥马哈海滩、硫磺岛、伊拉克和阿富汗献出生命的原因——从 Selma到 Stonewall 的人们也准备这么做。
所以这才是我们说美国优秀出众的原因。我们的国家并非一开始就完美,而是我们有能力作出改变,能让拥护它的人生活得更好。
是的,前行之路并不平坦。民主政治从来都是艰难、充满争议甚至有时要付出血的代价的。经常是走两步,退一步。但是,美国的漫长进程已经被进步所定义,它不断扩大我们的创始信条,以拥抱所有人,而不仅仅是特定群体。


如果 8 年前我告诉你,美国将扭转一场大衰退,重振我们的汽车产业,以及发起史上最长的创造就业运动……如果我告诉你我们会同古巴人民开启新的篇章,不开一枪地停止伊朗核武计划,以及消灭 9·11 事件的幕后大BOSS……如果我告诉你我们会在婚姻平权上取得胜利,并确保另外 2000 万同胞加入健康保险——你可能会说我们的目标定得有点高了。
但我们做到了!你们做到了!你们就是改变!
你们回应了人民的希望,而且正是因为你们,无论如何,美国都比我们开始时更美好,更强大。
在十天内,世界将目睹我们民主政治的一个标志:权力从一个被自由选举出的总统和平移交给下一任。 我向当选总统特朗普承诺,我的政权交接将以最平稳的方式过渡,就像布什总统交接给我时那样。 因为我们所有人都要确保我们的政府能帮助我们即将面临的挑战。
我们有理由要这样做。毕竟,我们仍然是这个地球商最富庶,最强大以及最受尊敬的国家。我们的年轻和进取心,我们的多元性和开放性,我们对冒险和改革的无限包容,都意味着未来依然非我们莫属。
但是只有我们的民主还在工作,只有当我们的政治反映人民的体面,只有当我们所有人,无论隶属于任何政党或有不同的利益,一起重建现在亟需达成的共识之时,这些潜力才能得以发挥。这是我今晚想要强调的——我们的民主政治的现状。


理解、民主不需要统一。开国先贤们有争吵,也有妥协,他们也希望我们如此。但是他们也知道民主需要一些基本的团结意识——不管外在的我们有多么不同,我们是一个整体,我们共进退。
历史上有一些威胁到这种团结的关头,本世纪初就是其中之一。 一个不断变小的世界,不断扩大的不平等; 人口变化和恐怖主义的幽灵——这些威胁不仅考验了我们的安全和繁荣,也考验了我们的民主。我们如何应对这些对民主的挑战,将决定我们能不能好好教育孩子,创造好的工作机会及保护我们的家园。
换言之,它将决定我们的未来。
如果意识不到每个人都有经济机遇,我们的民主就会失灵。今天,经济又开始增长;工资、收入、家庭财产和退休金账户又开始增加;贫困又开始减少。富人们在交更合理的税的同时,股票市场也破了记录;失业率降至近十年来最低。未上保险的比率低到前所未有。医疗健康支出增长率是近五十年最低。如果有任何人能提出一个可供证实的、比我们对医疗健康体系的改进更好的计划——以更少的支出覆盖更多的人民——我都会公开支持。
总而言之,这是我们服务的目的——为人民生活多造福,少贻祸。


但检视我们取得的实际进步,我们明白这还不够。我们的经济运转并不健康,增长也不强劲。有时甚至以牺牲中产阶级的增长为代价换取一时繁荣。而赤裸裸的不平等也在侵蚀着我们的民主原则。排名前1%的群体攫取了更多的财富收入,太多普通家庭、内陆城市和县域城市都难望其项背。政治格局中的两极分化和愤世嫉俗并存,苦苦挣扎着还账的失业工人、服务生和医护人员,认为游戏规则是在针对自己,他们的政府只为有权势者效劳。
没有立竿见影的神药可以阻止这种长期趋势。我相信,贸易应当公平而非仅仅是免费。但下一轮经济转型并非来自海外,而注定来自令许多中产阶级失业的自动化浪潮。我们必须打造一种新型的社会契约——保证孩子们都受到应得的教育;赋予工人们成立工会的权力,以争取更多工资;升级关乎当下生活方式的社会安全网络;要进行更多税改工作,保证在新经济模式中获利的公司法人和个人,都不能免除对国家的义务,因为国家保证了他们能获得成功。我们可以争辩如何最好地实现这些目标,但不能为目标本身而心满意足。因为我们如果不为全民创造机会,那么在未来几年,阻止我们前进的不满和分裂将更尖锐。
第二个对民主的威胁则与我们的民族一样久远。在我当选之后,还有关于美国“后种族歧视”时代的讨论。无论出于什么好意,这种境况都绝不现实。因为种族问题依然严重,而且常撕裂社会。长久以来,我已切身感受到,如今的种族关系已远胜十年前、二十年前乃至三十年前,这不仅体现在数字上,还体现在,纵观政治光谱,其中的美国年轻人态度也大有改观。


但如今我们并不应止于此,我们所有人都还有更多工作要做。毕竟,如果每个经济问题都在白人中产阶级和不值一提的少数族裔的争斗中闹腾,那么各行业工人们都会离开岗位大闹一番。如此一来,富人则会进一步龟缩入他们的私人领地。如果我们仅因移民们看起来非我族类,就削减对移民子弟的投入,那我们也是在缩减我们自己孩子的未来空间——因为那些棕色人种的孩子将占据美国劳动力的更多份额。而我们的经济绝不能成为一场零和博弈。而去年,各族群、全年龄层的男女性都实现了收入增长。
未来,我们必须在招聘、居住、教育和刑事司法体系等领域,全力支持反种族歧视法律。我们的宪法和最高理想所需要的正是这些。但仅有法律还不够,人心要变。如果我们的民主制度注定要在这种日益增长的分裂族群中运转,那么每个人都应该努力留意那本美国小说中的人物:阿提克斯·芬奇,他曾说过:“你永远不能真正了解一个人,除非你从他的角度去看问题,除非你披着他的皮囊行走世间。”
对黑人和其他少数族裔来说,我们为公正而进行的斗争,将关乎这个国家的许多人所面临的挑战,这些人包括难民、移民、乡村贫困群体、跨性别美国人,和那些看起来条件得天独厚,事实上被经济、文化和技术彻底改变了境遇的中年美国白人。


对美国白人而言,这意味着承认奴隶制和黑人在1960年代并没有突然消失;承认在那个年代,发出不满呼声的少数族裔,并不仅是参加“种族反歧视”或践行政治正确;承认他们参加和平抗议并不意味着寻求特殊待遇,而是要求获得建国元勋们所允诺的公正待遇。
对美国土著们来说,这意味着时刻提醒我们自己,今天所有有关爱尔兰人、意大利人和波兰人等移民的成规都将被逐字重复。美利坚并不会因为后来者的出现而弱化,他们拥抱了这个民族的信条,美利坚将因此而坚挺。
除了我们居住的国家,我们应该与每个爱国公民一起努力尝试。爱国公民与我们一样,珍视努力工作和家庭,他们的孩子也和我们自己的孩子一样有着求知欲和希望,并值得珍爱。
这些没一样是简单的。对大多数人来说,退居自己的幻境中以自保是最好的选择。不论邻居、大学校园、宗教场所还是社交网络,都是与我们相似的的人,持有相同的政治观点,永不改变我们的愿景。日渐赤裸的党派之争、日渐增多的经济和宗教分层、为了迎合各种品位而日渐分裂的媒体——所有这些都令站队排序站队排序看起来更合天理,乃至不可避免。我们日渐习惯于停留在舒适区享受安全,无论对错,我们只愿接受合乎己见的信息,而非接受客观信息。
这是威胁我们民主制度的第三股趋势。政治活动即是理念之争。为了进行一场有益的辩论,我们将不同目标和通向目标的不同路径都做了排序。但在没有一些事实的公共底线,没有容纳新信息,没有承认你的对手说得好,没有承认科学和合乎逻辑的事实的勇气的话,我们将停留在相互谈论过去的状态,不可能达成共识和寻求妥协。


这不正是政治让人如此沮丧之处吗?那些民选官员为什么会在我们试图为学前教育的孩子花钱时愤怒,但在为企业减税时就不会了?我们怎么可以为自己党派的道德瑕疵找借口,却对其他党派同样的行为大加抨击?这不仅不诚实,还是在掩耳盗铃,这是自掘坟墓。因为我的母亲曾告诉我,现实总有办法追上你。
关于应对气候变化的挑战。仅仅八年时间,我们对国外石油的依赖减半,而且让新能源使用增长了一倍。我们引领世界达成了一项拯救地球的协定。但是如果没有更进一步的行动,我们的子孙后代将没有时间讨论气候变化是否存在。他们将忙于处理后果:越来越多的自然灾难,越来越多的经济混乱,以及一波又一波寻求庇护的环境难民。
现在,我们可以而且应该讨论解决问题的最好方法。简单地忽视这个问题不仅是背叛未来一代,还背叛了指导建国先贤们的创新和实用的解决问题的基本精神。
正是这种精神,让我们成为了经济强国——这种精神让莱特兄弟在 Kitty Hawk飞起第一架飞机,这种精神治愈了疾病,还将电脑放进每一个人的口袋里。
这是这种精神——一种对理性、创业精神和权利高于强权的信念,使我们能在大萧条期间,抵御法西斯主义的暴政和诱惑,与其他民主国家一起建立二战后的秩序。这种力量不仅仅是基于军事力量或国家之间的关系,而是建立在信条之上——法律、人权、宗教自由、言论、集会自由和出版媒体独立。
这种秩序正面临挑战——首先是自称为伊斯兰发声的暴徒,最近是一些国家独裁者,他们把自由市场、开放民主和公民社会看做是他们权力的威胁。每一个举动对我们民主的威胁,都远大于一个汽车炸弹或导弹;它反映了我们对改变的畏惧;对长相不同、语言不同或信仰不同的人们的畏惧;对限制领导人的法律规章的蔑视;对异议和自由思想的不容忍;转而相信刀剑、武器或炸弹、宣传机器是真实和正确的最终仲裁者。


正是因为身着制服的男女们的非凡勇气,我们的情报人员和执法人员,以及支持他们的外交官们,过去 8 年,没有任何外国恐怖组织成功在我们的国土上策划和实施袭击。尽管波士顿、奥兰多和圣贝纳迪多的枪击案都在提醒我们激进有多危险,但我们的执法机构比以前任何时候都更有效,更警惕。我们除掉了数以万计的恐怖分子——包括本·拉登。我们领导的对抗 ISIL 的全球联盟已经消灭了他们的领导人,并且控制了他们大半的土地。ISIL 会被消灭的,任何威胁美国的人将永无宁日。对所有服役或曾经服役的人,作为你们的最高指挥官是我一生的荣幸。
但是,保卫我们的生活并不仅仅是军队的工作。当我们向恐惧妥协时,民主就会屈膝。所以,我们,作为公民,必须保持对外部侵略的警惕,我们必须警惕让我们成为我们的价值观的衰落。这也是为什么,过去 8 年,我一直致力于为打击恐怖主义建立牢固的法律基础。这是为什么我们结束虐囚,准备关闭关塔那摩监狱,改革政府监视法律来保护隐私和公民自由的理由;这是为什么我抵制歧视穆斯林美国人的理由,他们是和我们一样的爱国者;这是为什么我们不能放弃在全球范围内力争扩大民主,维护人权,维护妇女和 LGBT 群体的权利——不管我们的努力有多不完善,不管这些工作的价值在短期内会多么被忽视,这是保卫美国的一部分。对极端主义、不包容、宗派主义、沙文主义的斗争,和对独裁主义及国家侵略的斗争,均属同一阵线。如果自由的范围和对法律的尊重出现全球性受挫,内战和国家之间出现战争的可能性就会增加,我们自己的自由也会逐渐被威胁。
所以我们要更加警惕,但不是害怕。ISIL 会企图杀害无辜平民,但除非我们在斗争中背叛宪法和我们的信条,否则他们赢不了美国。俄罗斯或中国这样的对手,不足以匹配我们在世界的影响力——除非我们放弃主张,变成一个只会欺负周边小国的大国。
所有这些都取决于我们的参与度,取决于我们每个人对公民责任的接受度,而与权力在哪个党派手中无关。
我们的宪法是一部卓越而出色的礼物。但它只是一张羊皮纸,其本身并无力量。我们人民,用参与度和选择,赋予它力量。无论我们是否拥护我们的自由,无论我们是否尊重和加强法律条文,美利坚都不是脆弱之物,但我们通往自由之路的利益依旧不确定。


在乔治·华盛顿的告别演讲中,他写到:民主自治是我们安全繁荣和自由的基石。但“从不同的原因和不同的方面,这会产生痛苦……现实会削弱你心中的信念,这时我们应该用”唯恐失去的焦虑“来应对。我们应该防微杜渐,拒绝“任何分裂我们国家分裂的企图”,并保持团结一致。
当我们放任政治对话变得肮脏腐朽,以至有良好品格的人被踢出公共服务,我们就被削弱了。我们除了反对误导,还反对各种歹意。当我们非要就“谁更美国”分出高下之时,我们就被变弱了。尤其是当我们因为腐败而不得不关停整个政府系统,并责怪我们选举的领导人,却不反省自己在这场选举所扮演的角色。
我们每个人都理应为民主鼓与呼,并成为它的守卫者,拥抱这个天生的快乐使命,它将绵绵不绝地造福这个国度。因为即便有再多外在差异,我们仍然有着同一个值得骄傲的头衔:公民。
最后,这是民主对我们的要求。它需要你的参与,不仅在大选投票时,不仅在你狭隘的利益受到威胁时,它贯穿着整个人生的维度。如果你厌倦与人在互联网上争吵,大可尝试回到现实找个人聊天;如果有什么东西需要修补,大可系好鞋带,撸起袖子加油干;如果你对当选的官员感到失望,大可拿出剪贴板,争取签名,运营一间属于自己的选举办公室。大胆表现,专注做事,持之以恒,或成或败。就算存着好心去做事也有风险,可能也会给你带来失望。但对于我们这些幸运者而言,这是工作的一部分,让我告诉你,当接近它,你就能从中获得激励和启发。你对于美国以及美国人的信仰,迟早都会得到印证。
我保证肯定如此。在过去8年的任职中,我从年轻的毕业生以及军官中看到过充满希望的脸孔;我为悲伤的家庭哀悼,寻求答案,并在查尔斯顿的教堂找到了恩惠;我见过科学家帮助一个瘫痪的人恢复触觉,我们受伤的战士又恢复行走能力了; 我见过我们的医生和志愿者在地震后重建,尽其职责,阻止流行病的爆发;我看到最小的儿童提醒我们,我们有义务照顾难民,平和地工作,相互照顾。


我坚信多年的信仰,并没有远离,而是变成为美国人带来变化的力量。这股信念已经多到难以回报,我希望你们也是这样想的。你们现场当中的某人或者守候在电视机前的某人都一直团结着,从 2004 年到 2008 年再到 2014 年,可能你依然无法相信,我们居然至今同行。
你并不是唯一的,米歇尔。过去二十五年,你不仅是我的妻子和孩子的母亲,而且是我最好的朋友。你扮演一个无所求的角色,并使它充满自己的优雅、风格和幽默。你使白宫成为属于每个人的地方。而新一代的视野更高,因为他们有你作为榜样。你令我感到自豪。你让国家感到自豪。
玛丽亚和萨莎,在这种最奇特的环境中,你们成为两个惊人的年轻女性,聪明又美丽,但更重要的是,善良、周到且充满激情。你在聚光灯下承受了多年的负担,依然轻松面对。回顾我一生中的成就,最自豪的是成为你们的爸爸。
致敬乔·拜登,来自斯克兰顿的淘气小孩,后来成为了最受欢迎的特拉华之子:当我成为候选人时你是我的第一、也是最佳选择。不仅仅是因为你是一位如此出色的副总统,更使我收获了一位兄弟。我们像家人一样爱你和 Jill,我们的友谊是我们生活中最大的快乐之一。
致敬我最棒的团队:8 年以来——对你们中的有些人来说,时间更长——我从你们的能量中获得鼓舞,并试图回想你们每天表现的真心、品性和理想主义。我见证了你们成长、结婚、生子,以及开始你们自己的美妙的新旅程。即使在困难和沮丧的时候,你们都从来没有让华盛顿的政治打败自己,变成愤世嫉俗的人。我们一起取得的成绩已经足够荣耀,唯一让我更自豪的是想到你们未来将会取得的非凡成绩。
以及致敬你们所有人——每一个搬到陌生城镇的组织者,每一个接纳他们的家庭,每一位上门拜访的志愿者,每一个初次投票的年轻人,每一个亲身体味改变之艰难的美国人。你们是所有人都想要的支持者和组织者,我将永远心存感激。因为是你们改变了世界。


这也是为什么今晚我离开这个舞台后,我们可以比开始时对这个国家的未来更加乐观。因为我知道我们的工作不仅帮助和很多美国人,它也鼓舞了如此多的美国人——尤其是那么多的年轻人——相信自己会有所作为,对比自我伟大的事业抱有雄心。我来告诉你们,无私、利他、创新、爱国的一代已经到来,我在这个国家的每一个角落都能看到你们。你们坚信一个公平、正义和包容的美国,你们知道美国的标志就是不断改变,这不是应该恐惧而是应该拥抱的,你们愿意承担让民主的前行的重任。很快,你们就会超过我们,因此,我相信未来会在更好的人手中。
美利坚的同胞们,服务你们是我一生的荣幸。我不会止步,实际上,我的余生都会和你们在一起,作为一个公民。现在,不管你年轻还是心态年轻,我作为总统向你们提出最后一个请求——和 8 年前你们选我做总统时的请求一样。


我请求你们相信。不是我的能力带来了改变,而是你们。
我要求你坚持那些被写进建国纲领的精神;那些奴隶以及废奴主义者低声细语的想法;那些移民和家园被窃取者追求正义的灵魂歌唱;那些把旗帜插在国外战场和月球表面的人的信念重申;那些每一个故事还没有被书写的美国人内心坚持的信念。
是的,我们可以的。
是的,我们做到了。
是的,我们可以的。
谢谢!
愿上帝保佑你们,愿上帝继续保佑美利坚合众国!


英文版


It’s good to be home. My fellow Americans, Michelle and I have been so touched by all the well-wishes we’ve received over the past few weeks. But tonight it’s my turn to say thanks. Whether we’ve seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the American people – in living rooms and schools; at farms and on factory floors; at diners and on distant outposts – are what have kept me honest, kept me inspired, and kept me going. Every day, I learned from you. You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.

 

I first came to Chicago when I was in my early twenties, still trying to figure out who I was; still searching for a purpose to my life. It was in neighborhoods not far from here where I began working with church groups in the shadows of closed steel mills. It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss. This is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.
After eight years as your President, I still believe that. And it’s not just my belief. It’s the beating heart of our American idea – our bold experiment in self-government.
It’s the conviction that we are all created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It’s the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing; that We, the People, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union.
This is the great gift our Founders gave us. The freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat, toil, and imagination – and the imperative to strive together as well, to achieve a greater good.
For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation. It’s what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom. It’s what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande, pushed women to reach for the ballot, powered workers to organize. It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima; Iraq and Afghanistan – and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well.
So that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional. Not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change, and make life better for those who follow.
Yes, our progress has been uneven. The work of democracy has always been hard, contentious and sometimes bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some.
If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history…if I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, and take out the mastermind of 9/11…if I had told you that we would win marriage equality, and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens – you might have said our sights were set a little too high.
But that’s what we did. That’s what you did. You were the change. You answered people’s hopes, and because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started.
In ten days, the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power from one freely-elected president to the next. I committed to President-Elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me. Because it’s up to all of us to make sure our government can help us meet the many challenges we still face.

We have what we need to do so. After all, 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.
That’s what I want to focus on tonight – the state of our democracy.
Understand, democracy does not require uniformity. Our founders quarreled and compromised, and expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity – the idea that for all our outward differences, we are all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.
There have been moments throughout our history that threatened to rupture that solidarity. 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. And how we meet these challenges to our democracy will determine our ability to educate our kids, and create good jobs, and protect our homeland.
In other words, it will determine our future.
Our democracy won’t work without a sense that everyone has economic opportunity. Today, the economy is growing again; wages, incomes, home values, and retirement accounts are rising again; poverty is falling again. The wealthy are paying a fairer share of taxes even as the stock market shatters records. The unemployment rate is near a ten-year low. The uninsured rate has never, ever been lower. Health care costs are rising at the slowest rate in fifty years. And if anyone can put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we’ve made to our health care system – that covers as many people at less cost – I will publicly support it.
That, after all, is why we serve – to make people’s lives better, not worse.
But for all the real progress we’ve made, we know it’s not enough. Our economy doesn’t work as well or grow as fast when a few prosper at the expense of a growing middle class. But stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic principles. While the top one percent has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income, too many families, in inner cities and rural counties, have been left behind – the laid-off factory worker; the waitress and health care worker who struggle to pay the bills – convinced that the game is fixed against them, that their government only serves the interests of the powerful – a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics.
There are no quick fixes to this long-term trend. I agree that our trade should be fair and not just free. But the next wave of economic dislocation won’t come from overseas. It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes many good, middle-class jobs obsolete.
And so we must forge a new social compact – to guarantee all our kids the education they need; to give workers the power to unionize for better wages; to update the social safety net to reflect the way we live now and make more reforms to the tax code so corporations and individuals who reap the most from the new economy don’t avoid their obligations to the country that’s made their success possible. We can argue about how to best achieve these goals. But we can’t be complacent about the goals themselves. For if we don’t create opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come.
There’s a second threat to our democracy – one as old as our nation itself. After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic. For race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were ten, or twenty, or thirty years ago – you can see it not just in statistics, but in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum.
But we’re not where we need to be. All of us have more work to do. After all, if every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and undeserving minorities, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves. If we decline to invest in the children of immigrants, just because they don’t look like us, we diminish the prospects of our own children – because those brown kids will represent a larger share of America’s workforce. And our economy doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Last year, incomes rose for all races, all age groups, for men and for women.
Going forward, we must uphold laws against discrimination – in hiring, in housing, in education and the criminal justice system. That’s what our Constitution and highest ideals require. But laws alone won’t be enough. Hearts must change. If our democracy is to work in this increasingly diverse nation, each one of us must try to heed the advice of one of the great characters in American fiction, Atticus Finch, who said “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”


For blacks and other minorities, it means tying our own struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face – the refugee, the immigrant, the rural poor, the transgender American, and also the middle-aged white man who from the outside may seem like he’s got all the advantages, but who’s seen his world upended by economic, cultural, and technological change.
For white Americans, it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn’t suddenly vanish in the ‘60s; that when minority groups voice discontent, they’re not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness; that when they wage peaceful protest, they’re not demanding special treatment, but the equal treatment our Founders promised.
For native-born Americans, it means reminding ourselves that the stereotypes about immigrants today were said, almost word for word, about the Irish, Italians, and Poles. America wasn’t weakened by the presence of these newcomers; they embraced this nation’s creed, and it was strengthened.
So regardless of the station we occupy; we have to try harder; to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own.
None of this is easy. For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. The rise of naked partisanship, increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste – all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable. And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there.
This trend represents a third threat to our democracy. Politics is a battle of ideas; in the course of a healthy debate, we’ll prioritize different goals, and the different means of reaching them. But without some common baseline of facts; without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we’ll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible.
Isn’t that part of what makes politics so dispiriting? How can elected officials rage about deficits when we propose to spend money on preschool for kids, but not when we’re cutting taxes for corporations? How do we excuse ethical lapses in our own party, but pounce when the other party does the same thing? It’s not just dishonest, this selective sorting of the facts; it’s self-defeating. Because as my mother used to tell me, reality has a way of catching up with you.
Take the challenge of climate change. In just eight years, we’ve halved our dependence on foreign oil, doubled our renewable energy, and led the world to an agreement that has the promise to save this planet. But without bolder action, our children won’t have time to debate the existence of climate change; they’ll be busy dealing with its effects: environmental disasters, economic disruptions, and waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary.
Now, we can and should argue about the best approach to the problem. But to simply deny the problem not only betrays future generations; it betrays the essential spirit of innovation and practical problem-solving that guided our Founders.
It’s that spirit, born of the Enlightenment, that made us an economic powerhouse – the spirit that took flight at Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral; the spirit that that cures disease and put a computer in every pocket.
It’s that spirit – a faith in reason, and enterprise, and the primacy of right over might, that allowed us to resist the lure of fascism and tyranny during the Great Depression, and build a post-World War II order with other democracies, an order based not just on military power or national affiliations but on principles – the rule of law, human rights, freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, and an independent press.
That order is now being challenged – first by violent fanatics who claim to speak for Islam; more recently by autocrats in foreign capitals who see free markets, open democracies, and civil society itself as a threat to their power. The peril each poses to our democracy is more far-reaching than a car bomb or a missile. It represents the fear of change; the fear of people who look or speak or pray differently; a contempt for the rule of law that holds leaders accountable; an intolerance of dissent and free thought; a belief that the sword or the gun or the bomb or propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what’s true and what’s right.
Because of the extraordinary courage of our men and women in uniform, and the intelligence officers, law enforcement, and diplomats who support them, no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland these past eight years; and although Boston and Orlando remind us of how dangerous radicalization can be, our law enforcement agencies are more effective and vigilant than ever. We’ve taken out tens of thousands of terrorists – including Osama bin Laden. The global coalition we’re leading against ISIL has taken out their leaders, and taken away about half their territory. ISIL will be destroyed, and no one who threatens America will ever be safe. To all who serve, it has been the honor of my lifetime to be your Commander-in-Chief.
But 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 firm 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. That’s why we cannot withdraw from global fights – to expand democracy, and human rights, women’s rights, and LGBT rights – no matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem. For the fight against extremism and intolerance and sectarianism are of a piece with the fight against authoritarianism and nationalist aggression. 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.
So let’s be vigilant, but not afraid. ISIL will try to kill innocent people. But they cannot defeat America unless we betray our Constitution and our principles in the fight. Rivals like Russia or China cannot match our influence around the world – unless we give up what we stand for, and turn ourselves into just another big country that bullies smaller neighbors.
Which brings me to my final point – our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted. All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions. When voting rates are some of the lowest among advanced democracies, we should make it easier, not harder, to vote. When trust in our institutions is low, we should reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics, and insist on the principles of transparency and ethics in public service. When Congress is dysfunctional, we should draw our districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes.
And all of this depends on our participation; on each of us accepting the responsibility of citizenship, regardless of which way the pendulum of power swings.
Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it’s really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power – with our participation, and the choices we make. Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms. Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law. America is no fragile thing. But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured.
In his own farewell address, George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity, and liberty, but “from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken…to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth;” that we should preserve it with “jealous anxiety;” that we should reject “the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties” that make us one.
We weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character are turned off from public service; so coarse with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are not just misguided, but somehow malevolent. We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others; when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.
It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title: Citizen.
Ultimately, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there’s an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try to talk with one in real life. If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing. If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself. Show up. Dive in. Persevere. Sometimes you’ll win. Sometimes you’ll lose. Presuming a reservoir of goodness in others can be a risk, and there will be times when the process disappoints you. But for those of us fortunate enough to have been a part of this work, to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire. And more often than not, your faith in America – and in Americans – will be confirmed.
Mine sure has been. Over the course of these eight years, I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates and our newest military officers. I’ve mourned with grieving families searching for answers, and found grace in Charleston church. I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch, and our wounded warriors walk again. I’ve seen our doctors and volunteers rebuild after earthquakes and stop pandemics in their tracks. I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us of our obligations to care for refugees, to work in peace, and above all to look out for each other.
That faith I placed all those years ago, not far from here, in the power of ordinary Americans to bring about change – that faith has been rewarded in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined. I hope yours has, too. Some of you here tonight or watching at home were there with us in 2004, in 2008, in 2012 – and maybe you still can’t believe we pulled this whole thing off.


You’re not the only ones. Michelle – for the past twenty-five years, you’ve been not only my wife and mother of my children, but my best friend. You took on a role you didn’t ask for and made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humor. You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody. And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. You’ve made me proud. You’ve made the country proud.
Malia and Sasha, under the strangest of circumstances, you have become two amazing young women, smart and beautiful, but more importantly, kind and thoughtful and full of passion. You wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. Of all that I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud to be your dad.
To Joe Biden, the scrappy kid from Scranton who became Delaware’s favorite son: you were the first choice I made as a nominee, and the best. Not just because you have been a great Vice President, but because in the bargain, I gained a brother. We love you and Jill like family, and your friendship has been one of the great joys of our life.
To my remarkable staff: For eight years – and for some of you, a whole lot more – I’ve drawn from your energy, and tried to reflect back what you displayed every day: heart, and character, and idealism. I’ve watched you grow up, get married, have kids, and start incredible new journeys of your own. Even when times got tough and frustrating, you never let Washington get the better of you. The only thing that makes me prouder than all the good we’ve done is the thought of all the remarkable things you’ll achieve from here.
And to all of you out there – every organizer who moved to an unfamiliar town and kind family who welcomed them in, every volunteer who knocked on doors, every young person who cast a ballot for the first time, every American who lived and breathed the hard work of change – you are the best supporters and organizers anyone could hope for, and I will forever be grateful. Because yes, you changed the world.
That’s why I leave this stage tonight even more optimistic about this country than I was when we started. Because I know our work has not only helped so many Americans; it has inspired so many Americans – especially so many young people out there – to believe you can make a difference; to hitch your wagon to something bigger than yourselves. This generation coming up – unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic – I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, just, inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, something not to fear but to embrace, and you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result that the future is in good hands.
My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you. I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my days that remain. For now, whether you’re young or young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your President – the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago.
I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.
I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written:
Yes We Can.
Yes We Did.
Yes We Can.  


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