By ALLISON MATYUS
Last night, the country watched as President Barack Obama gave his final speech as President in Chicago. For Hyde Park residents, they watched a historic chapter of one of their neighbors’ lives come to a close.
Obama’s eight – year term as President will be remembered by many, but Hyde Park residents, who watched him rise to the most powerful position in the nation, have a special place of remembrance for their fellow neighbor.
“We are very proud as Hyde Parkers to call him one of our own,” said Tara Orris, a resident who worked on Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. “He represented Hyde Park and our culture and who we are as Chicagoans very well, and continues to do so.”
Orris was not at the Farewell Address last night, which was held at McCormick Place, 2301 S. King Dr., but watched it on television along with an estimated 24 million other Americans.
“I thought the speech encompassed a lot of the sentiments that we are all feeling,” Orris said. “I’m a Democrat and I’ve worked for Democratic candidates and I thought that he really addressed a lot of our concerns as progressive people.”
While some residents were only able to watch the speech through their television screens, some were fortunate enough to be in the arena with him.
Hyde Park resident Abby Klionsky was one of the thousands of people to get tickets this past Saturday, Jan. 7. She arrived at the event yesterday at 5:30 p.m. and was able to get inside just a few minutes after Obama began his speech at 8 p.m.
“We were way in the back of the room,” Klionsky said. “There was no sitting, only standing, but the exciting part was being there with all the energy in the room.”
The crowd–that was estimated at 18,000 people–was chanting “Four more years! Four more years!” during a part of his speech, to which Obama said “I can’t do that.”
Klionsky said that the energy in the room was so intense that she couldn’t hear his speech very well.
“I definitely have to rewatch the speech for the content,” she said.
Another Hyde Park resident, Niall Fennessy, who attended with his 13-year-old son, said he was near the front left of Obama.
“I wanted my son to remember this in 50 years,” Fennessy said. “[My son] was blown away by all of it. You could see that youthful gaping at the ‘rock star’ and he was really excited. It was a once in a lifetime experience for him.”
Fennessy said that he will remember Obama for his policy-changing Affordable Care Act, and as the greatest president in his own lifetime.
Obama’s successes as president will carry on in Hyde Park with the upcoming Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park. Klionsky said that Hyde Park will probably become the center of operation for building on his legacy.
“There’s a lot of effort by the Obama Foundation to include the community in discussions and what will be the focus of their work,” she said.
For Klionsky, attending the farewell address was the perfect way to end Obama’s presidency.
“I was fortunate enough to be in Grant Park when he won in 2008 so it was a nice way to close it out and see the energy that Chicago still has,” Klionsky said.