Chicago Says “Farewell” to Barack Obama- A Night to Remember

The opportunity to attend Barack Obama’s “Farewell Speech” was made available to Chicagoans  and others when free tickets were offered.  But it wasn’t that simple.  Lines were long.  It was cold.  Many gave up.  Others were away the day this took place and didn’t have a chance.  And, still others, disgracefully sold tickets.


Coveted tickets

Chicago Splash Magazine will share observations and reflections from people who found a way to attend the events at McCormick Place.





Elaine Canevaro offered her observations and experiences (and photos) with Splash Magazine Worldwide readers.  Check back soon to see what Chicago Splash Magazine journalist Justin LcClaire experienced at this unforgettable event.


Will she remember/

Elaine continues, "I noticed that there was amazing diversity in the lines waiting to enter - race, ages, religions and geographies - everyone was happy to be there and to be together.  


So excited

While in line we met people from New York, Florida, Wisconsin and all across cities in Illinois and neighborhoods of Chicago. Generations come together- Grandparents, Moms and Dads with their kids. Groups of friends and co-workers, many people who worked on Obama campaigns in Illinois and across the country.


Amazingly, even after standing in lines for more than 4 hours, when Obama stepped into the stage, the energy in the room surged.  


Excited to be here


Barack Obama’s grace and humility in his speech, while also providing his supporters with a list of success during his time as President and a blueprint to continue to create change was as good as Obama has ever been, but what really resonated across the thousands of people there was when he shared his thanks and admiration for his wife and children along with VP and Mrs. Biden - sharing his emotions on his sleeve, and with all of us in that moment, gave everyone another reason to love and miss him even more.


Barack on the monitor

For quite a while after Obama finished his speech and he walked amongst the crowd in the front of the room, people lingered to take pictures, share their stories of Obama and the hope he gave them, while also acknowledging the uncertainty and even frank disdain for the incoming administration. 


While it was his farewell speech, for many people Obama will never be forgotten." 


Throught the red, white and blue passageway


Another account:


Even listening to the speech on the radio, far from Chicago, the power and beauty of the words, of the voice was moving.  The changes reeled off, the wonderful appreciation of Michelle Obama. 


Check back for more remembrances of the night Barack Obama gave his farewell address.


Lots of people

Photos: Courtesy of Elaine Canevaro


From Justin LeClaire


Obama’s Farwell Speech – An Emotional Goodbye in Chicago


Although the gates to Obama’s Farwell didn’t open until 5 PM the lines at McCormick Place started forming around noon. That didn’t matter to Barack Obama’s ardent supporters. Many of whom were there to have a front row view to a historic night and say goodbye to a man that had been their role model, and for many their hero, through many turbulent times in the country.


By the time I joined the throngs of lucky ticket holders, at around 4:30 PM, the security lines were so long that it took nearly three hours of waiting to get through. The secret service is much more intense about security checks than any TSA check I’ve experienced. But unlike waiting in line at the airport, there was a perception of enthusiasm in the air. Everyone it seemed was laughing, smiling, and full of excitement.


Under all the elation though there was a foreboding sense of somberness and fear. Like any great Obama speech you know you’re in for an emotional night. This one more than most as it would be his last major speech as president. That sense of mourning was palpable. As was the anxious uncertainty of what the next presidency might bring, and how much he might undo all that the current president worked so hard to achieve.


Similar to a storm thundering outside during a joyous wedding, this too also felt paradoxical. Coincidentally, it was an unusually stormy January evening in Chicago with rainfall and high winds outside – nature sure knows how to add mocking symbolism.


It was quite a contrast to from 8 years ago when Obama was first elected when an estimated 100,000 came out to Grant Park on an unseasonably warm November night to celebrate his election. The hope never really faded from his supporters, even as the achievements and grandiose ideas of a post-racial and post-partisan society never really came to fruition. In truth, Obama himself conceded as such in his speech that those lofty ambitions were unrealistic.


Obama holds a special place in the hearts of many Chicagoans, and indeed in Obama himself. Chicago is his adopted hometown. Working as a political organizer, the young recent graduate from Harvard Law School, met countless struggling low-wage workers and minorities who felt cast aside by discrimination. This city is where his political aspirations to inspire people not to give up hope began. His optimism and devotion to public service first took root here. It’s why he took the unusual step of returning to Chicago for his final address, rather than holding at the White House as many past presidents have done.


On a personal level, Chicago also holds another special place in Obama’s heart.  It’s where Michelle and Barack first met while working as lawyers at the law firm Sidley Austin downtown. It is where Barack taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago for many years. And where his two children were born.


Justin LeClaire shared his view of the crowd

Barack is a magnificent speaker. After all, it was a speech that first catapulted this unknown man back in 2004 to the White House just over four years later. The first “YouTube” president. A viral hit among young Americans whose support has never waned. Obama knows how to work up a crowd to soaring highs and bring it down to honest moments that can leave hundreds of thousands in hushed silence clinging to his every word. The language is so beautiful at times that it often goes above political and into the world of poetry.


Obama’s farewell speech was certainly emotional. It was one of his best speeches and contained some of its most touching. For the record, I still think his 2016 DNC speech was his best speech.


While there were many heartfelt moments with gorgeous quotes, the speech was a lesson in selflessness. It was as much of a speech about us, as it was about Obama’s accomplishments. “I have learned from you. You have made me a better president, and you made me a better man.” It doesn’t get more humble than that. For all his successes, from leading us out of a recession to giving over 20 million people access to health care, this speech was more about being a citizen than about his legacy.


In fact, Obama spent much of his speech not only decrying partisanship, but acutely identifying three vital threats to democracy currently facing the country: wealth inequality, racial divisions, and retreats into ideological “bubbles.” With the later of the speech being heavy on imploring citizens to take control of democracy, imploring us, “I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.”  This is a prime example of a good father and college professor telling us how to move forward, rather than a President telling us. It’s this way of talking to people that makes his words penetrate us much more than honestly than many of his predecessors could.


One can criticize Obama politically, but even the most conservative of citizens can easily recognize the moral family values that Barack Obama has with his wife of 25 years and his two children. His personal thank you to Michelle received one of the loudest and longest ovations of the night. Recalling in personal terms how she is not only his wife but his best friend, Obama, visibly moved, wiped tears away – evoking “awes” from those around me. He also addressed Malia and Sasha for how they’ve handled years in the spotlight. Telling them that, “Of all that I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud to be your dad.”


Afterward, I got a glance of the enormous sea of humanity pouring out of the convention hall into the confusing confines of the gigantic McCormick Place. The picture was a reflection of modern America: a mixture of people of all ages, ethnicities, religions, genders, orientations, and sizes. It is a testament to the people’s admiration for this man that he was able to bring such an assortment together, willing to brave the bitter cold and long lines, just to hear this man speak. An event that was being covered on all major networks.


Of course, all this admiration comes from Obama’s ability to inspire. His farewell address did what all of his great speeches do: they craft a vision of an inclusive America that centers on equality, fairness, and optimism for everyone.


For all his critics Obama will be sorely missed in Chicago.







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