(JTA) — In his farewell address, President Barack Obama urged Americans to unite despite their differences and defended the accomplishments of his administration.
Among the successes Obama listed in the speech Tuesday night in Chicago was the 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. The agreement, negotiated between Iran and six world powers led by the U.S., froze Iran’s nuclear activities in return for a lifting of sanctions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lambasted the deal as a capitulation to Iran. But Obama touted it Tuesday as a a victory for diplomacy that stemmed a major threat.
Obama also praised the recovery of the economy and consistent job growth, as well as the assassination of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, the restoring of relations with Cuba, the passage of the Affordable Care Act and the institution of same-sex marriage.
“If I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, and take out the mastermind of 9/11 … you might have said our sights were set a little too high,” Obama said early in the address. “But that’s what we did. That’s what you did. You were the change.”
Obama spoke 10 days before the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, who has vowed to undo much of the president’s legacy. Obama asked Americans to seek common ground with one another, defend American values, strengthen the country’s institutions and participate more in the democratic process.
“It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy, to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours,” Obama said, quoting in part from George Washington’s farewell address. “Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title: citizen.”