‘For Michelle and me, Chicago is where it all started. It’s the city that showed us the power and fundamental goodness of the American people.’
That’s Barack Obama buttering up what’s already likely to be a friendly home crowd.
The 44th president of the United States officially says goodbye Tuesday night at 8 p.m. local time (9 p.m. Eastern) to the nation he served for two terms. He’ll sign off from a Chicago that launched his professional and political careers. It’s the city where his wife, Michelle, and daughters were born and where his presidential library will chronicle a short path from state senator to abbreviated U.S. Senate term to a seemingly long-shot 2008 presidential victory, first over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, then over veteran Sen. John McCain in the general election. All that for a guy named Obama when the world was still hunting a guy named Osama.
On Tuesday, Obama kicked off with a Facebook post the speech that senior adviser Valerie Jarrett insisted will not be a “victory lap” but a call to action. Notably, President-elect Donald Trump is slated to hold his first official press conference since July the next day.
“America is a story told not minute to minute, but generation to generation — a story written by parents, and teachers, and veterans, and neighbors who’ve taken on the call of citizenship, working together, without fanfare, to form a more perfect union,” Obama posted.
Long past Tuesday night, history will be the final judge on the Obama presidency, and even this location choice for the parting shot, which wasn’t lacking in jabs about Chicago’s soaring murder rate. (The Obamas have decided to stay in Washington for a few more years.)
White House Aide Jen Psaki had estimated the expected crowd size at the lake-front McCormick Place convention complex at 14,000, in a seated auditorium, but then she backed down from any official projection. By contrast, some 250,000 were on hand for Obama’s victory address in Chicago’s Grant Park on Election Night in 2008.
The speech Tuesday will be shorter than a State of the Union address, which means less than an hour, she said. Insert “Windy City” joke, with all its connotations, here. No joke, though, that a high-wind warning on Tuesday meant that a lot of Lake Michigan was spilling onto the shoreline at the convention complex that will host the farewell.
One way or another, the room will be whirling. At-home viewers can watch the speech live in a 360-degree perspective, a technological first for a presidential address.