We thought this day would never come! It’s definitely been a long eight years. Are you as excited as we are? We are counting down the days! Not long now.
By Josh Lederman
His last vacation behind him, President Barack Obama is entering the closing stretch of his presidency, an eleventh-hour push to tie up loose ends and put finishing touches on his legacy before handing the reins to President-elect Donald Trump.
Obama returned to Washington midday Monday from Hawaii with less than three weeks left. His final days will largely be consumed by a bid to protect his endangered health care law, a major farewell speech and the ongoing handover of power to Trump.
In an email to supporters on Monday, Obama said his valedictory speech on Jan. 10 follows a tradition set in 1796 when the first president, George Washington, spoke to the American people for the last time in office. The speech will take place at McCormick Place, a giant convention center in Obama’s hometown of Chicago.
“I’m thinking about them as a chance to say thank you for this amazing journey, to celebrate the ways you’ve changed this country for the better these past eight years, and to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here,” Obama said.
Obama’s chief speechwriter, Cody Keenan, traveled with Obama to Hawaii and spent much of the trip working on the speech. The Chicago trip will likely be Obama’s last outside Washington as president and will be include a “family reunion” for Obama’s former campaign staffers.
Obama is also planning last-minute commutations and pardons, White House officials said, in line with his second-term effort to cut sentences for inmates given unduly harsh sentences for drug crimes. Though prominent offenders like Edward Snowden and Rod Blagojevich are also asking for leniency, Obama’s final acts of clemency are expected to remain focused on drug offenders whose plight Obama tried but failed to address through criminal justice reform.