JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. — Former President Obama declared to staffers and members of the military that “yes we did, yes we can” after taking his last helicopter ride around the Capitol and before departing for California.
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump walked the Obamas down the Capitol steps after the inauguration, as is customary, and waved as the now-former first couple took off in the Marine helicopter.
It took a spin around the Washington Monument before heading to Andrews, where Obama quipped that he and Michelle have “really been milking this goodbye thing.”
“Some folks didn’t think we could pull it off. There were those who felt that the institutions of power and privilege in this country were too deeply entrenched,” he said. “And yet, all of you came together in small towns and big cities, a whole bunch of you really young, and you decided to believe. And you knocked on doors and you made phone calls, and you talked to your parents who didn’t know how to pronounce Barack Obama.”
“And you got to know each other. And you went into communities that maybe you’d never even thought about visiting. And met people that on the surface seemed completely different than you — who didn’t look like you or talk like you or watch the same TV programs as you. And yet once you started talking to them, it turned out that you had something in common.”
Obama said his change movement was “infused with a sense of hope,” and his staff and supporters “proved the power of hope.”
“And all the amazing things that happened over these last 10 years are really just a testament to you in the same way that when we talk about our amazing military and our men and women in uniform, the military’s not a thing, it’s a group of committed patriots willing to sacrifice everything on our behalf. It works only because of the people in it,” the former president said.
“As cool as the hardware is, and we’ve got cool hardware, as cool as the machines as weapons and satellites are, ultimately it comes down to remarkable people, some of them a lot closer to Malia’s age than mine or Michelle’s. Well, the same thing’s true for our democracy. Our democracy’s not the buildings, it’s not the monuments, it’s you being willing to work to make things better and being willing to listen to each other and argue with each other and come together and knock on doors and make phone calls and treat people with respect.”
Obama added “that doesn’t end” and “this is just a little pit stop.”
“This is not a period, this is a comma in the continuing story of building America,” he said.
The Obamas released a farewell video stressing that they want to take a break after eight years in the White House but plan on getting to work on several projects after that.
The former president said his Chicago presidential center will be based on the south side and “will have projects all over the city, the country and the world.”
“More than a library or museum, it will be a living, working center for citizenship. That’s why we want to hear from you. Tell us what you want this project to be and tell us what’s on your mind,” he said. “…The work of perfecting our union’s never finished and we look forward to joining you in that effort as fellow citizens.”
The Obamas flew from Andrews to Palm Springs for a vacation. They will be living in D.C. for the time being.
After the inauguration, former Vice President Joe Biden went to Union Station and boarded an Amtrak back to Delaware, a regular ride he used to take as senator.