President Barack Obama ended his final press conference from the White House on Wednesday with a message of resilience and hope: “We’re going to be okay.”
Responding to a question about how he and First Lady Michelle Obama discussed the 2016 election’s outcome with their daughters, the President said they represent a generation that makes him “really optimistic.”
“What we’ve also tried to teach them is resilience and we’ve tried to teach them hope and that the only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world,” he said. “You get knocked down, you get up, brush yourself off and you get back to work.”
Obama said that the United States is “a big complicated country” and described democracy as “messy” and uncertain, but called for political engagement.
“There are a lot more good people than bad in this country,” he said. “I believe in this country. I believe in the American people. I believe that people are more good than bad. I believe tragic things happen. I think there’s evil in the world but I think that at the end of the day, if we work hard, and if we’re true to those things in us that feel true and feel right, that the world gets a little better each time. That’s what this presidency has tried to be about.”
Earlier in the press conference, Obama drew a line between “the normal back and forth, ebb and flow, of policy” and moments when fundamental democratic ideas are in danger.
“In a democracy, sometimes you’re going to win on those issues and sometimes you’re going to lose,” he said. “But there’s a difference between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake.”
Obama went on to detail situations that could present such a risk.
“I’d put in that category if I saw systematic discrimination being ratified in some fashion. I’d put in that category explicit or functional obstacles to people being able to vote, to exercise their franchise. I’d would put in that category institutional efforts to silence dissent, or the press,” he said. “And for me at least, I would put in that category efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids and send them some place else.”
It’s not hard to nail down what Obama may have been alluding to in those remarks.
President-elect Donald Trump proposed a ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S. on the campaign trail, a policy which he never really walked back after winning the election. His nominee for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), has shown skepticism toward the Voting Rights Act and played up concerns over alleged election fraud over the course of 30 years. Earlier Wednesday, Trump signaled that his adversarial relationship with the press will likely continue after he takes office, given his plans to change long-standing White House briefing protocol. And one of the cornerstones of Trump’s campaign was his plan to create a mass deportation force targeting all undocumented immigrants.
But in his final response, Obama wasn’t weeping for the country’s future.
“It is true that behind closed doors I curse more than I do publicly, and sometimes I get mad and frustrated like everybody else does, but at my core, I think we’re going to be okay,” Obama concluded. “We just have to fight for it, we have to work for it and not take it for granted, and I know that you will help us do that.”
This post has been updated.
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