Just 10 days before the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, President Barack Obama returned to Chicago to give his farewell address to the nation.
While supporters stood in unity in Chicago, news outlets painted different pictures.
Fox News opinion writer Bill Whalen said that Obama’s address was a “bask of idolatry,” as he mesmerized the Chicago crowd, using rhetoric to mask his failures.
Television host Sean Hannity, also from Fox News, said that Obama attempted to hide his terrible legacy in his speech Tuesday night, listing his accomplishments to give the appearance of success..
This theme was seen among other prominent conservative figures like The Blaze’s Tomi Lahren:
— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) January 11, 2017
On the other hand, outlets like The Huffington Post and The Washington Post emphasized Obama’s call to unity in a threatening time.
The Washington Post outlined the main points of contention in the country and Obama’s concern about such issues, like race and economic inequality. The speech as a whole was part-rallying cry and part-mourning cry, part-inspiration and part-concern according to Juliet Eilperin and Greg Jaffe:
“The big crowd, full of White House staffers, celebrities and longtime supporters, made the event feel like a cross between a campaign rally and a wake.”
The Huffington Post chose to interpret the same points in the speech as indirect shots at President-elect Trump.
According to the The Huffington Post piece by Marina Fang, the address contained “warnings” aimed at the president-elect, drawing Trump as a leader who goes against the ideals of unity, compassion, and democracy.
“Obama only mentioned Trump by name early in the speech, noting his commitment to the transition of power,” Fang wrote. “But many of his cautions appeared directed at his successor, particularly his reminder that ‘democracy can buckle when we give in to fear,’ and his apparent references to Trump’s campaign of divisiveness and fearmongering [sic] against minority groups.”
In a time of extreme partisanship and a unique transition, others chose to focus on the emotional aspects of the outgoing president’s speech.
The Boston Globe emphasized a teary Obama, highlighting his hopeful look to the future and his words of comfort and encouragement in the speech.
“Forceful at times and tearful at others, Obama’s valedictory speech in his hometown of Chicago was a public meditation on the many trials the U.S. faces as Obama takes his exit,” wrote Josh Lederman and Darlene Superville. “For the challenges that are new, Obama offered his vision for how to surmount them, and for the persistent problems he was able to overcome, he offered optimism that others, eventually, will.”
The Atlantic wrote a piece on Obama’s small but significant reference to Atticus Finch, a popular American character from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird – known by many for his outstanding character and steadfast values.
The Atlantic piece, written by Spencer Kornhaber, also dove deep into the complications of Atticus Finch and his character in the more recent publication of Go Set a Watchman. It noted that while Atticus had become an “outspoken racist” in Watchman, many Americans still idolize Atticus Finch as an American hero – the one portrayed in Mockingbird.
Obama’s reference to this notable character in American literature, according to the article, aimed to encourage Americans to be the “best version” of themselves in this divisive time.
“Obama was not necessarily denying the troubling person Atticus Finch may have become, just as he was not denying the country’s troubling situation now,” wrote Kornhaber. “But he was calling on America to ensure that the best version of itself, and the best versions of its heroes, reemerges.”