More

5 quotes from presidential farewell speeches show the power of a strong good-bye.

Ahead of President Obama's final speech, a look back at some important lessons.

5 quotes from presidential farewell speeches show the power of a strong good-bye.

On Sunday, Jan. 10, President Barack Obama will travel to Chicago to deliver his farewell address to the nation.

The farewell address is a tradition dating all the way back to George Washington himself. The address has historically provided outgoing presidents with an opportunity to publicly reflect on their successes and failures, as well as to share a bit of unique wisdom with both their successor and with the general public as a whole.

"Since 2009, we've faced our fair share of challenges, and come through them stronger," wrote President Obama on the White House website. "That's because we have never let go of a belief that has guided us ever since our founding — our conviction that, together, we can change this country for the better."


One of the most interesting aspects of the farewell address is how, as a concept, it's such a contradiction in terms of the president's power and influence.

Usually delivered just days before a successor is set to take office, the farewell address comes at what is arguably the low point in any president's administration in terms of actual policy influence — and yet, these addresses have typically been imbued with such candidness that they become powerful in a whole new way.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

1. George W. Bush shared a message of compassion and understanding for immigrants.

"In the face of threats from abroad, it can be tempting to seek comfort by turning inward. But we must reject isolationism and its companion, protectionism. Retreating behind our borders would only invite danger," Bush warned.

While much of President Bush's speech focused heavily on the importance of national defense and vigilance about preventing future terrorist attacks, at one point during the address, he focused on the very concept of what it means to be American:

Photo by Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald, Pool.

2. Bill Clinton urged future generations to embrace equality "in our hearts and in our laws."

"As we become ever more diverse, we must work harder to unite around our common values and our common humanity," implored Clinton in his speech.

During his administration, President Clinton's record on equality was somewhat mixed. As the president who signed both the Defense of Marriage Act (which preemptively blocked same-sex marriages) and the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy (which prohibited gays, lesbians, and bisexuals from serving openly in the armed forces) into law, his farewell address hinted at a bit of regret when it came to social equity:

Photo by AFP/AFP/Getty Images.

3. Ronald Reagan used his address to remind the country why city walls must have doors that are open to everyone.

"I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it," Reagan said in his speech. "In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity."

"And if there had to be city walls," he said, "the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still."

Reagan's address mostly centered on his successes in office, focusing on economic gains and the U.S.'s role in ending the Cold War, but also included a word of advice for when the going gets tough or problems seem overwhelming

Photo by J. David Ake/AFP/Getty Images.

4. Jimmy Carter played up the importance of defending the human rights of all people in the success of America.

"Those who hunger for freedom, who thirst for human dignity, and who suffer for the sake of justice, they are the patriots of this cause," said Carter during his address.

His anti-isolationist message touched on the U.S.'s role in ensuring that people around the world are treated with dignity, respect, and basic human rights. Carter urged Americans to be a force for good in the world, extending far beyond geographic borders.

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

5. George Washington warned us of the dangers of partisanship, a message that remains incredibly relevant.

"I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations," wrote Washington. "Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally."

Despite having been delivered more than 220 years ago, Washington's address is perhaps the most prescient for 2017 and beyond. Political parties can serve as coalitions for individuals with similar goals. As President Washington warned, however, they can also lead to despotism. Now, in 2017, as the country's 45th president is about to be inaugurated, it seems our attachment to these political parties has done just that: empowered a despot.

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Party allegiances today have even chipped away at the very concept of facts. Should a Democrat say the sky is blue, expect that a Republican will be there to dispute the assertion, and vice versa. It often feels as though the parties are no longer working toward common interests and solutions, but rather, a very dangerous game of one-upmanship, the most obvious example being the rush for Congress and the PEOTUS to repeal President Obama's landmark health care bill, which could boot up to 30 million people off their health insurance.

President Washington warned us. It's not too late to listen to what he — and our other past presidents — had to say.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.