US President Barack Obama speaks during his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois on January 10, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
US President Barack Obama has bid farewell to the nation during a speech to mark the end of his presidency after two terms in office. In his farewell speech, he warned that the country’s growing economic inequality and racial tensions pose a major threat to American democracy. Press TV has spoken to Richard Becker, member of the ANSWER Coalition, as well as Lawrence J. Korb, former US assistant secretary of defense, to discuss Obama’s hits and misses during his 8 years as president.
Becker believes the most “memorable” and “historic” aspect of Barack Obama’s legacy will be the fact that he was the first African American to hold the presidency of the United States.
However, he noted, institutionalized racism and slavery has been built into the very foundation of the United States, arguing that it did not go away with the election of Obama because it is structural.
“Really the great wealth of the United States was based on slavery, billions and billions hours of unpaid labor and the driving of the indigenous people off the land and in fact genocide against indigenous people which created the actual territory for the creation of the United States of America,” he said.
The activist further asserted that the "Black Lives Matter" movement did not arise out of the presidency of Obama, but rather it came years after his election with the epidemic of police killings of black people.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Becker criticized the Obama administration’s policy on Syria, saying US intervention has transformed the war in the war-torn Arab country into a “protracted” and “destructive” struggle.
Although Obama pulled back from enforcing a no-fly zone in Syria in 2013, still the intervention has been so destructive to Syria that it is really indescribable, he added.
The activist further predicted that inequality will continue to increase in the United States because it is an “inevitable product” of the system itself.
He also censured Obama for not prosecuting Wall Street bankers for their criminal conduct and instead giving them hundreds of billions in bailout money without any conditions.
The other panelist on the program, Lawrence J. Korb, said Obama was trying to make the point that as the first African American president of the United States, he has not solved all of the racial problems in the country.
“The great irony is a lot of people particularly African Americans thought his election would wipe the slate clean but I think he was saying you still have these problems, you still need to work on them and if obviously our next president is not an African American, it does not mean you can sweep these problems under the rug, you still have to continue to work on them,” he said.
Elsewhere in his comments, Korb hailed Obama for not opposing the recent UN Security Council resolution against Israeli settlements.
He further called Iran’s nuclear agreement a “magnificent achievement” because it got the entire international community work with the United States on the deal.
According to the analyst, had it not been for the steps Obama has taken, the unemployment rate would have gone up as high as 20 percent and the country could have entered a new era of depression.