'You made me a better President, a better man' Obama tells Americans

WASHINGTON - Barack Obama on his last full day as US president released a letter telling Americans, "You made me a better President, and you made me a better man."

Obama leaves office on Friday (Jan 20) after eight years in the White House.

Taking over will be New York business mogul Donald Trump.

Obama wrote in an open letter published on Medium that it's been a long-standing tradition for the president to write a parting private missive to be left for his successor.

"But before I leave my note for our 45th president, I wanted to say one final thank you for the honour of serving as your 44th," Obama wrote.

"Because all that I've learned in my time in office, I've learned from you."

Here's the $8.7 million home the Obamas will be renting

  • It's not the White House, but the US$6 million (S$8.47 million) mansion President Obama and his family will be moving into after the end of his term is not too shabby either.
  • Situated in the upscale Kalorama neighbourhood in Washington DC, the mansion is just a little more than 3km from the White House.
  • It is a 761 sq m brick Tudor mansion.
  • It was recently renovated in 2012, and occupies an area of 8,122 sq ft.
  • The property has nine bedrooms, eight and a half bathrooms, a terrace with formal gardens and a courtyard that can fit up to 10 vehicles
  • The neighbourhood is upscale, with several embassies nearby.
  • The Obamas' new mansion is next door to the home of a former congressman and down the street from the French ambassador.
  • But overall, the neighbourhood is quiet and calm, despite being located in the midst of a busy city.
  • "You can get almost any place in Washington that you want to go to in 15 minutes, but on the weekend, it's like you're in the country," former Democratic congressman and soon-to-be Obama neighbour Bart Gordon told The New York Times.
  • The kitchen features marble countertops and white cabinets as well as a hardwood floor.
  • The home has a clean, traditional aesthetic - similar to that of the White House.
  • The mansion also has an "au pair suite", which could accommodate Mrs Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Robinson.
  • The living room has been described in news reports as "stately" and "generous".
  • The Obamas, who own a house in Chicago, will be renting the Washington mansion from owner Joe Lockhart, a former press secretary and senior adviser to former president Bill Clinton.
  • The President has previously said his family will remain in the capital until his daughter Sasha finishes high school in 2018.
  • His older daughter Malia, who graduated from high school in June, will take a gap year before enrolling at Harvard University.

The President touched on some of the memorable events he's witnessed, including finding "grace" in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, after a mass shooting in the city and seeing families blossom because of the legalisation of gay marriage.

He also asked Americans to continue to be involved in the "joyous work of citizenship" - not just during an election year, but during their lifetimes.

"And when the arc of progress seems slow, remember: America is not the project of any one person. The single most powerful word in our democracy is the word 'We.' 'We the People.' 'We shall overcome,'" Obama concluded.

"Yes, we can."

Obamas host their final State Dinner

  • US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wait for the arrival of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his wife Agnese Landini on the North Portico of the White House before a state dinner in Washington, DC on October 18, 2016.
  • US President the First Lady walk out to welcome Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his wife Agnese Landini on the North Portico of the White House before the state dinner.
  • US President the First Lady wait to welcome Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his wife Agnese Landini on the North Portico of the White House before the state dinner.
  • US President the First Lady wait to welcome Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his wife Agnese Landini on the North Portico of the White House before the state dinner.
  • US President (L) and the First Lady (2R) welcome Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (R) and his wife Agnese Landini on the Noth Portico of the White House before the state dinner.
  • US President (L) and the First Lady (2R) welcome Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (R) and his wife Agnese Landini on the Noth Portico of the White House before the state dinner.
  • US President and the First Lady welcome Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (2nd-R) and his wife Agnese Landini (L).
  • US President (L) and the First Lady (2R) welcome Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (R) and his wife Agnese Landini on the Noth Portico of the White House before the state dinner.
  • White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest (L) and Natalie Earnest (R) arrive for the State Dinner honouring Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at the White House.
  • Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson (L) and Dr Susan DiMarco (R) arrive for the State Dinner.
  • New York Times photographer Doug Mills and Katherine Mills arrive for the State Dinner.
  • Frank Ocean and Katonya Breaux arrive for the State Dinner.
  • Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Paul Pelosi (R) arrive for the State Dinner.
  • Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Catherine Smith (R) arrive for the State Dinner.
  • Haim Saban (R) and Cheryl Saban (L) arrive for the State Dinner.
  • George Stephanopoulos of ABC News (R) and Alexandra Wentworth (L) arrive for the State Dinner.
  • Megan Beyer, Executive Director of the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities (L) and Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) arrive for the State Dinner.
  • Chuck Todd of MSNBC (L) and Kristian Todd (R) arrive for the State Dinner.
  • US Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez photographs his wife Ann Marie Staudenmaier with singer Gwen Stefani during the State Dinner at White House.
  • Tamron Hall of MSNBC (L) and Jonathan Todd Capehart (R) arrive for the State Dinner.
  • Actor John Turturro (R) and Katherine Borowitz (L) arrive for the State Dinner.
  • Roberto Benigni (L) and Nicoletta Braschi (R) arrive for the State Dinner.
  • New York Times reporter Mark Landler (L) and Angela Tung (R) arrive for the State Dinner.
  • Singer and songwriter James Taylor (R) and Kim Taylor (L) arrive for the State Dinner.
  • US President Barack Obama (R) and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi descend a staircase before a portrait of former US president Harry S. Truman prior to the State Dinner.
  • US President Barack Obama (R) and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi arrive for an official photo before the State Dinner.
  • Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi delivers a toast during the State Dinner.
  • Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi toasts US President Barack Obama during the State Dinner.
  • US President Barack Obama and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi hug during an exchange of toasts during a State Dinner.
  • US President Barack Obama speaks during the State Dinner.
  • Singer Gwen Stefani performs during the State Dinner.
  • Singer Gwen Stefani performs during the State Dinner.
  • Singers Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton attend the State Dinner.
  • Singers Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton attend the State Dinner.

FULL TEXT OF OBAMA'S LETTER:

My fellow Americans,

It's a long-standing tradition for the sitting president of the United States to leave a parting letter in the Oval Office for the American elected to take his or her place. It's a letter meant to share what we know, what we've learned, and what small wisdom may help our successor bear the great responsibility that comes with the highest office in our land, and the leadership of the free world.

But before I leave my note for our 45th president, I wanted to say one final thank you for the honour of serving as your 44th. Because all that I've learned in my time in office, I've learned from you. You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.

Obama awards tearful Joe Biden top civilian medal

Throughout these eight years, you have been the source of goodness, resilience, and hope from which I've pulled strength. I've seen neighbours and communities take care of each other during the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. I have mourned with grieving families searching for answers - and found grace in a Charleston church.

I've taken heart from the hope of young graduates and our newest military officers. I've seen our scientists help a paralysed man regain his sense of touch, and wounded warriors once given up for dead walk again. I've seen Americans whose lives have been saved because they finally have access to medical care, and families whose lives have been changed because their marriages are recognised as equal to our own. I've seen the youngest of children remind us through their actions and through their generosity of our obligations to care for refugees, or work for peace, and, above all, to look out for each other.

I've seen you, the American people, in all your decency, determination, good humour, and kindness. And in your daily acts of citizenship, I've seen our future unfolding.

All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into that work - the joyous work of citizenship. Not just when there's an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.

I'll be right there with you every step of the way.

And when the arc of progress seems slow, remember: America is not the project of any one person. The single most powerful word in our democracy is the word 'We.' 'We the People.' 'We shall overcome.'

Yes, we can.


This article was first published on Jan 19, 2017.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.