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US President Barack Obama asks Americans to protect democracy

News Agencies | Updated on: 11 January 2017, 10:10 IST

US President Barack Obama on Wednesday asked Americans to unite and protect the country's democracy which he said is being threatened by racism, inequality and a corrosive political environment as he made his farewell speech after eight years in the White House.

"Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear. So just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are," Obama, 55, said in his address to the nation from his home town.

The 55-year-old outgoing President lamented that despite his historic election as the nation's first black president in 2008, "race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society."

"After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic," he acknowledged.

Obama's presidency will come to an end on 20 January when Republican Donald Trump would be sworn in as the 45th President of the US.

Obama promised a peaceful transfer of power to Trump in the coming weeks.

Without mentioning Trump, he used his speech to offer an implicit rebuttal to many of the contentious themes like temporary ban on Muslim immigration that characterised the 2016 presidential campaign.

Obama said he rejects discrimination against Muslim Americans, and drew cheers for saying they are "just as patriotic as we are".

"... I've worked to put the fight against terrorism on a firm legal footing. That's why we've ended torture, worked to close Gitmo, and reform our laws governing surveillance to protect privacy and civil liberties. That s why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans," Obama said in his yet another inspiring speech.

"That's why we cannot withdraw from global fights to expand democracy, and human rights, women s rights, and LGBT rights no matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem," he said.

Obama warned his countrymen that American democracy is threatened whenever they take it for granted."All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions. When voting rates are some of the lowest among advanced democracies, we should make it easier, not harder, to vote," he said.

"When trust in our institutions is low, we should reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics, and insist on the principles of transparency and ethics in public service. When Congress is dysfunctional, we should draw our districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes," he added.

"And all of this depends on our participation; on each of us accepting the responsibility of citizenship, regardless of which way the pendulum of power swings," said the US President.

-PTI

First published: 11 January 2017, 10:10 IST
 
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