Northwestern students join Chicago crowds for Obama’s farewell address
January 11, 2017
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As President Barack Obama returned with family and loved ones to the city he called “home,” Northwestern students joined tens of thousands in Chicago on Tuesday night to watch the president give his final farewell address.
More than 18,000 people were present to watch Obama speak at the McCormick Place convention center, the same venue where he gave his victory speech after the 2012 election. Some Northwestern students attended after successfully obtaining tickets on Saturday morning.
McCormick senior Natalie Ward said she has a special admiration for Obama and that a photo of his face even hangs on her grandmother’s wall. Ward said his presidency helped her better understand discrimination and hatred in the country, and she was eager to see him speak.
“As a black student trying to go into the workforce, or anything, I feel that no matter how hard you try, people will still disrespect you even if you’re in the highest positions,” Ward said. “So that inspired me. … Work harder, be aware.”
Ward is not alone in her adoration for the outgoing president. McCormick sophomore Nneoma Oradiegwu described the room as one filled with love. The audience did not hold back its cheers and applause for the president, even chanting “four more years!” at one point in his speech.
“Everything that he did, we responded to, and everything we did, he responded to,” Oradiegwu said. “It’s kind of like a one-on-5,000 conversation. … It was a really cool situation to be there and to be able to be there while he’s still president.”
McCormick senior Imaya Jones, who attended the event with a group of friends, said she was motivated to seize a final opportunity to “be in the same building as him” before his second term is over.
As the first president of color, Obama holds a special place in Jones’ heart, she said, as he validated that children of color can achieve whatever they want.
“Whenever Trump does something stupid, I’ll remember Obama,” Jones said. “He did a lot of good things that will last with a lot of people for a long time.”
Though Obama elaborated on points regarding race, the economy and the current state of American democracy, he received powerful responses toward the end of his speech when he addressed his wife and children, who were also present. Wiping away tears, Obama praised his wife for making the White House more inclusive and being a role model for the entire country.
Obama’s emphasis on family was especially impactful for Oradiegwu.
“(The Obamas) are all just really awesome role models for the world, for kids, even adults,” she said. “Michelle Obama is a great inspiration. … Finally having representation in the White House has definitely changed a lot for a lot of people, as well as myself.”
The speech was a good reminder of the progress that has been made in the past eight years, Oradiegwu said, on issues ranging from marriage equality to climate change and affordable health care.
Oradiegwu added that she saw the farewell address as particularly special in light of the upcoming inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, which will occur Jan. 20.
“(It’s) a really bittersweet day because you get to be here and see this president, but you also know what’s coming next,” Oradiegwu said. “But I think it’s cool to have the last hurrah before the bulls–t goes down.”