tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC January 10, 2017 6:00pm-7:01pm PST
o'er the land of the free and ♪ the home of the brave [ cheers and applause ] welcome to our coverage of the farewell address of president barack obama. he'll be delivering at in chicago at mccormick place, a huge convention center, the same venue where he celebrated his 2012 reelection, he celebrated his first election in 2008 also in chicago at grant park. there are about 20,000 people in this building. that makes this a very atypical
setting. a very atypical approach to a farewell address. lots of addresses have happened before the white house with no crowd, or just a handful of people. but president barack obama tonight will be in just moments addressing an absolutely enormous crowd. we know people lined up in subzero temperatures on the streets of chicago on saturday morning to get the thousands of free tickets that were given away to this event. we have very little guidance as to what president obama will say tonight. presidents often throw a curveball or very specific ideas into their farewell address. we don't know. with the excerpts we've gotten from the white house, they're pretty general make. we don't know what we're going to get from president obama but we know this will be his last major address to the nation. >> ladies and gentlemen, well please welcome the 44th president of the united states, barack obama. [ cheers and applause ]
you can tell that i'm -- you can tell that i'm a lame duck because nobody's following instructions. [ laughter ] everybody have a seat. my fellow americans. [ cheers and applause ] michelle and i have been so touched by all the well wishes that we've received over the past few weeks. but tonight it's my turn to say thanks. [ cheers and applause ] whether we have seen eye to eye or rarely agreed at all, my
conversations with you, the american people, in living rooms and in school, at farms, on factory floors, diners and on distant military outposts, those conversations are what have kept me honest and kept me inspired and kept me going. and everyday i have learned from you. you made me a better president. and you made me a better man. so i first came to chicago when i was in my early 20s and i was still trying to figure out who i was, still searching for a purpose in my life. and it was the neighborhood 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. [ crowd chanting "four more years" ] i can't do that. now this is where i learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved and they get engaged and they 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 hard 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. what a radical idea a great gift that our founders gave to us. the freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat and toil and imagination and the imperative to thrive together as well to achieve a common good. 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 [ cheers and applause ] . it's what pushed women to reach for the ballot. it's what powered workers to organi organize. it's why g.i.s give 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.
[ cheers and applause ] so that's what we mean when we say america's 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, it's always been contentious, sometimes it's been 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. [ cheers and applause ] [ applause ] 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 -- [ cheers and applause ] if i had told you we would open up a new chap tter with the cub people, shut down iran's nuclear weapon program without firing a shot, take out the mastermind of 9/11 -- [ cheers and applause ] if i had had told you that we would win marriage equality and security the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens --
[ cheers and applause ] if i told y'all that, you might have said our sights were set a little too high. but that's what we did. [ cheers and applause ] 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. [ cheers and applause ] in 10 someddays the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy.
[ boos ] no, no, no. the peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected president to the next. [ cheers and applause ] i committed to president-elect trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition just as president bush did for me. [ applause ] 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. we have everything we need to meet those challenges. after all, we remain the wealthiest, most powerful and most respected nation on earth. our youth, our drive, our
diversity and openness, our boundless capacity for risk and reinvention means the future should be our's. but that potential will only be realized if our democracy works. only if our politics better reflects the decency of our people. [ applause ] only if all of us regardless of party affiliation or particular interests help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now and that's what i want to focus on tonight, the state of our democracy. understand, democracy does not require uniformity. our founders argued, they quarrelled, eventually they
compromised. they expected us to do the same but they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidari solidarity. that idea that for all our outward differences, we're all in this together, that we rise or fall as one. [ applause ] there have been moments throughout our history that threatened that solidarity. in the beginning of this century, it's 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 our prosperity
but are testing 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. to begin with, our democracy won't work without a sense that everyone has economic community. and the good news is that today the economy is growing again, wages, incomes, home values and retirement accounts are all rising again. poverty is falling again. [ applause ] the wealthy are paying a fairer share of taxes even as the stock market shattered records. the un'm place of employment rate is near a ten-year low, the
uninsured rate has never, ever been lower. [ cheers and applause ] health care costs are rising at the lowest rate in 50 years and i've said and i mean it, 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. [ cheers and applause ] because that, after all, is why we serve. not to score points or take credit but to make people's lives better. but for all the real progress that 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 and ladders for folks who want to get into the middle-class. [ applause ] that's the economic argument, but stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic idea while the top 1% has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income, too many of our families in inner cities and rural counties have been left behind. the laid off factory worker, the waitress or health care worker who is just barely getting by and struggling to pay the bills convinced that the game is fixed against them, that their government only serves the interest of the powerful, that's a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics. there are no quick fixes to this
long-term trend. i agree our trade should be fair and not just free. but the next wave of economic dislocations won't come from overseas, they will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes a lot of good middle-class jobs obsolete. so we're going to have to forge a new social compact to guarantee all our kids the education they need. [ applause ] 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 this new economy don't avoid their obligations to the country that's made their very success possible. [ applause ] 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 for di disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come. there's a second threat to our democracy and this one is as old as our nation itself. after my election, there was talk of a post-racial america. and such a vision, however well intended, was never realistic race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. now i've lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were 10 or 20 or 30 years ago no matter what
some folks say. [ cheers and applause ] you can see it not just in statistics, you see in the the attitudes of young americans across the political spectrum. but we're not where we need to be. [ applause ] and all of us have more work to d do. if every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle-class and an undeserving minority then workers of all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves. [ cheers and applause ] if we're unwilling to invest in the children of immigrants just because they don't look like us,
we will diminish the prospects of our own children, because those brown kids will represent a larger and larger share of america's work force. [ cheers and applause ] and we have shown that 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. so if we're going to be serious about race going forward, we need to uphold laws against discrimination in hiring and in housing and in education and in the criminal justice system. [ cheers and applause ] that is what our constitution and highest ideals require. [ applause ]
but laws alone won't be enough. hearts must change. they won't change overnight. social attitudes often times 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 try to heed the advice of a great character in american fiction, atticus finch. [ cheers and applause ] 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." more blacks and other minority groups, that means tying our own very real struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face. not only the refugee or the immigrant or the rural poor or
the transgender american but also the middle aged white guy who, from the outside, may seem like he's got advantages but has seen his world upended by economic and technological and cultural change. we have to pay attention and listen. [ applause ] for white americans it means acknowledging that the affects of slavery and jim crow didn't sudden ly vanish in the '60s. [ cheers and applause ] that when minority groups voice discontent, they're not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness. when they wage peaceful protests, they're not demanding special treatment but the equal treatment that our founders promised. [ cheers and applause ]
for native-born americans, it means reminding ourselves that the stereotypes about immigrants today were said almost word for word about the irish and italians and poles who it was said were going to destroy the fundamental character of america. and as it turned out america wasn't weakened by the presence of these newcomers. these newcomers embraced this nation's creed and this nation was strengthened. [ applause ] so regardless of the station that we occupy, we all have to try harder.
we all have to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens love this is country just as much as we do. that they value hard work and family just like we do. that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own. [ cheers and applause ] and that's not easy to do. for too many of us it's become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or on college campuses or places of worship or especially our social media feeds. surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions and
the rise of naked partisanship and 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 start accepting only information -- whether it's true or not -- that fits our opinions instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that is out there. [ applause ] and this trend represents a third threat to our democracy. look, politics is a battle of ideas. that's how our democracy was
designed. in the course of a healthy debate we 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 might be making a fair point and that science and reason matter, then we're going to keep talking past each other. [ cheers and applause ] and we'ill make common ground a compromise impossible. and isn't that part of what so often makes politics disspiriting? how can elected officials rage about deficits when we propose to spent money on pre-school for kids but not when we're cutting taxes for corporations? [ cheers and applause ] how do we execute 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 mom 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 independence and entered into an agreement that has promised to save this planet. [ cheers and applause ] 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 -- more environmental disasters, more economic
disruptions, wave of climate refugees seeking sanctuary. we can and should argue about the best approach to solve the problem. 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. [ cheers and applause ] it is that spirit born of the enlightenment that made us an economic powerhouse. the spirit that took flight at kittyhawk and cape canaveral, the spirit 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. that allowed us to build a post-world war ii order with other democracies, an order based not just on military power or national affiliations but built on principles, the rule of law, human rights, freedom of religion and speech and assembly and an independent press. [ cheers and applause ] that order is now being challenged first by violent fanatics who claim to speak for
islam, more recently byautocr autocrats in foreign capitals who see free markets and 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. they represent the fear of change, the fear of people who look or speak or pray differently. the contempt for the rule of law that holds leaders accountable. an intolerance of dissent and free thought. a believe that the sword or the gun or the bomb or the 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, because of our
intelligence officers and law enforcement and diplomats who support our troops [ cheers and applause ] no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland these past eight years. [ cheers and applause ] and although boston and orlando and san bernardino and ft. hood remind us of how dangerous radicalization can be, our law enforcement agencies are more effective and vigilant than ever. we have taken out tens of thousands of terrorists, including bin laden. [ cheers and applause ] 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.
[ cheers and applause ] and to all who serve or have served it has been the honor of my lifetime to be your commander-in-chief and we all owe you a deep debt of gratitude. [ cheers and applause ] but protecting our way of life, that's not just the job of our military. democracy can buckle when it gives 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. [ cheers and applause ] and 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, reformed our laws governing surveillance to protect privacy and civil liberties that's why i reject discrimination against muslim americans who are just as patriotic as we are. [ cheers and applause ] that's why we cannot withdraw from big global fights to expand
democracy and human rights and women's rights and lgbt rights. no matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem, that's part of defending america. for the fight against extremism and intolerance and sectarianism and chauvinism are of a piece with the fight against authoritarianism and nationalist aggression. if the cope 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. [ applause ] isil will try to kill innocent people. but they can not defeat america unless we betray our constitution and principles in the fight. [ applause ] 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 neighbor neighbors. which brings me to my final point. our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted. [ applause ] all of us, regardless of party, should be throwing ourselves
into the task of rebuilding our democratic ints constitutions. [ cheers and applause ] when voting rates in america are some of the lowest among advanced democracies, we should be making it easier, not harder to vote. [ cheers and applause ] when trust in our institutions is low, we should reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics and insist on ths ethics in public service. when congress is dysfunctional, we should draw our congressional districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes.
[ applause ] but remember. none of this happens on its own. all of this depends on our participation. on each of us accepting the responsibility of citizenship regardless of which way the pendulum of power happens to be swing i swinging. 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. [ cheers and applause ] we the people give it meaning with our participation and with the choices that we make. and the alliances that we forge.
whether or not we stand up for our freedoms. whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law. that's up to us. america's 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. and so we have to preserve this truth 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. [ applause ] america, we weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character aren't even willing to enter into public service. so coarse with rancor that americans with whom we disagree are seen not just as misguided but as 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 when we sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.
[ cheers and applause ] 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, in fact, all share the same proud type, the most important office in the democracy -- citizen. [ applause ] citizen. so you see 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 -- [ laughter ] -- try talking with one of them in real life. [ cheers and applause ] if something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing. [ cheers and applause ] in you're disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures and run for office yourself. [ cheers and applause ]
show up, dive in. stay at it. sometimes you'll win. sometimes you'll lose. presuming a reservoir of goodness in other people, that can be a risk. and there will be times when the process will disappoint you. but for those of us fortunate enough to have been part of this one and 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. [ applause ] over the course of these eight years i've seen the hopeful faces of young graduates and our newest military officers.
i have mourned with grieving families searching for answers and found grace in a charleston church. i've seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch. i've seen wounded warriors who at points were given up for dead 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 through their actions and through their generosity of our obligations to care for refugees or work for peace. [ cheers and applause ] and above all to look out for each other. so that faith that 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 could not have possibly imagined and i hope your faith has, too. some of you here tonight or watching at home, you were there with us in 2004 and 2008, 2012. [ cheers and applause ] maybe you still can't believe we pulled this whole thing off. [ laughter ] let me tell you, you're not the only ones. [ laughter ] michelle -- [ cheers and applause ]
michelle levaughn robinson, girl of the south side -- [ cheers and applause ] for the past 25 years you have not only been my wife and mother of my children you have been been my best friend. [ cheers and applause ] you took on a role you didn't ask for and you made it your own with grace and with grit and with style and good humor. [ cheers and applause ]
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. [ cheers and applause ] so you have made me proud and you have made the country proud. [ cheers and applause ] malia and sasha, under the strangest of circumstances you
have become two amazing young women. you are smart and you are beautiful but more importantly you are kind and you are thoughtful and you are full of passion. [ cheers and applause ] and you wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. of all i have that done in my life, i am most proud to be your daddy. [ cheers and applause ] to joe biden -- [ cheers and applause ]
the scrappy kid from scranton who became delaware's favorite s son, you were the first decision i made as a nominee and it was the best. [ cheers and applause ] not just because you have been a great vice president but because in the bargain i gained a brother and we love you and jill like family and your friendship has been one of the great joys of our lives. [ cheers and applause ] to my remarkable staff, for eight years and for some of you a whole lot more i have drawn from your energy and everyday i tried to reflect back what you displayed -- heart and character
and idealism. i've watched you grow up, get married, have kids, start incredible new journeys of your own. even when times got tough and frustrati frustrating, you never let washington get the better of you. you guarded against cynicism. the only thing that makes me prouder than all of the good we have done is the thought of all of the amazing things you are going to achieve from here. [ cheers and applause ] to all of you out there, every organizer who moved to an unfamiliar town, every 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 anybody could ever hope for and i will be forever grateful because you did change the world. you did. [ applause ] that's why i leave this stage tonight even more optimistic about this country than 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 that you could make a difference, to hitch your wagon to something bigger than yourselves. let me tell you, this generation coming up, unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic. i've seen you in every corner of the country. you believe in a fair and just
and inclusive america. [ cheers and applause ] you know the constant change that has been america's hallmark, that it is not something to fear but something to embrace. you are willing to carry the hard work of democracy forward. you'll soon outnumber all of us, and i believe, as a result, the future is in good hands. [ applause ] 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, all my remaining days, but for now, whether you are young or whether you are 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'm asking you to believe -- not in my ability to bring about change but yours. i'm asking you to hold fast to that faith written in our founding documents, that ideal whisper by slaves and abolitionists and 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. the creed at the corner of every morn whose story is not yet written, yes we can. yes, we did, yes, we can. thank you. god bless you. thank you. [ cheers and applause ]
♪ >> president obama along with the first lady and his elder daughter. malia joined on the stage, as well, by vice president joe biden and his wife, dr. jill biden. we saw the big heart-felt hug between the president and vice president there. these, of course, were president obama's final public remarks.
this is his farewell address. he will be president for another ten days until his successor is sworn in. this is an unusual setting, unusual approach for a farewell address. our last two presidents to leave office did a farewell address of small scale, each of them letss than 15 minutes. both done from the white house. this comes up on just under one hour with a lot of time for applause and some soaking in the adoration of this enormous crowd. there's 20,000 people there at mccormick place in chicago. this is a huge convention center. free tickets were given out. some just to people who lined up in the pre-dawn hours, in sub-zero temperatures in chicago to get in. this is also -- if you know anyone who has had association with the obama administration, you'll know this was sort of a last family reunion.
people who were involved in any of the president's campaigns, you heard him shout out to people who worked on his 2012 re-election campaign, his 2008 campaign to become president and even his campaign before then, 2004, to become a united states senator. of course he's gone home to do this. this is chicago, where he worked as a community organizer, where he became a state senator from the south side of chicago and from which he launched his initial foray in to national politics. he started his first national profile really grew from his speech at the democratic national convention in 2004. you'll remember that speech. it's not red states america, it's not blue states of america. it is united states states of america. well,er that speech that launched him as a national figure, there were 17,000 people in the room for that unbelievable speech. there are 20,000 in the room for this one and this is not the way
presidents usually say good-bye. i'm joined by a number of my friends here at msnbc. i will go to my dear colleague chris matthews. what did you think? >> i agree. i remember coming out of 2004, and thinking this she first african-american president. with the unusual name of barack hussein obama. it had the clothing of nonpartisan speech but he could have said i will defend my decisions on cuba and the facts. i will defend concerns about climate change. i will defend and oppose any muslim ban. >> huge applause when he said that. >> that is what was in our thinking. we don't want that in this country. the attorney general said that
today. jeff sessions. he i thought it was in many ways a speech that had the sound and clothing of a nonpartisan speech. it was very much a statement that i'm going to be in this thing and calling this guy. i thought this was the best line -- actually i don't want to hog this but this i think got to the heart of his fight with trump. it is a fight. after all, if every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hard-working white middle class and undeserving minorities than workers of all shades will be left with scraps while the wealthy draw in to their private enclaves. that's a statement against trump. >> we should note it was an unusual ending to the speech. in part because speeches aren't usually approached this way. we have never had such a long heart-felt thank you. little bit of a family reunion feel here. you sawmaa you saw malia obama
wife, thanking people who got him where he was and making a cry that people should get back involved. it's now 10:00 on the east coast. i'm rachel maddow with our continuing coverage of president obama's farewell address in chicago tonight. i'm joined by a number of my msnbc colleagues including chris matthews and chris hayes. i want to ask you about a remark you and i -- while we were watching the comment commented on this, with humor in his voice. if you are trying to argue with stranger on the internet, try real life. if you are disappointed by elected officials grab a clipboard, get signatures, show up, dive in, persevere. >> it was -- what was powerful about that portion and the speech in general is if there is anyone who has a right to