Around 35 people watched President Barack Obama's farewell speech at Tavern in the Square in Cambridge Tuesday night.

Around 35 people watched President Barack Obama's farewell speech at Tavern in the Square in Cambridge Tuesday night.

Credit: Mike Deehan

Even In Cambridge, Obama's Farewell Message Of Hope Can't Overpower Dismay Over Trump

January 11, 2017

Beside the Chicago hall where he gave his farewell address, few venues in the U.S. could be considered as friendly to out-going President Barack Obama as the scene in Cambridge' Central Square Tuesday night. But the scattered cheers from the crowd of around 35 Obama die-hards could only occasionally puncture the overall sense of dread these deep blue voters feel about the next four years.

"It was bittersweet, but I think he did a good job drawing contrast between his vision and the incoming administration's vision," said Keith Chaney, who owns a small business in Lawrence.

Chaney said Obama also did a good job in the speech by helping the audience prepare themselves for the Trump era.

"There weren't too many people here in the room that weren't a little bit apprehensive about the incoming administration," Chaney said.

After outlining his accomplishments, much of Obama's speech focused on inspiring younger Americans to become more involved in civic institutions or to even run for office themselves. That resonated with Samuel Gebru, an Ethiopian-American running for Cambridge city council this year.

"His inspiration, his start as a community organizer, working with marginalized communities is what I've been doing since I was 13 years old," Gebru told WGBH News.

Gebru helped organize the watch-party in the backroom of Central Square's Tavern on the Square to watch Obama say his goodbyes. Over the whoops and cheers coming from the pub trivia contest in the main dining room, the partisan crowd in back offered scattered applause throughout Obama's speech, piping up most at mentions of the Obama administration's work on health care coverage and prescriptions on combating income inequality.

The biggest applause line of the night in Cambridge came when Obama thanked his wife Michelle.

There was a buzz of almost nervous laughter in the room when Obama suggested that Americans should not just argue with political opponents online, but actually engage with them outside their own political "bubble."

Chaney thought Obama did well over his eight years given the pitch of Republican opposition in Congress.

"It's not an individual effort, right? There's two sides of the aisle... I think he did a real good job outlining some of the things he wanted to do and considering the opposition that was laid in front of him, I think he did a decent job," Chaney said.

Patrick Long is an attorney from Dorchester and thought Obama would have been more successful if he had been tougher with Congress.

"So much of a nice guy. He needed to do more to what the Republicans, of what they did to him. I think he would have been more successful that way. There's a saying that when you're explaining, you're losing. I think he spent too much time explaining instead of just fighting," Long said. 

Instead of being tougher, Gebru would have prefered Obama reached out to Republicans more.

"I would have liked to see perhaps a bit more bipartisanship on the president's end. There were a lot of executive orders, there were a lot of things coming top-down. But I do think it came from a well-meaning place," Gebru  said.

Awet Teame said she personally benefitted from Obama's policies during the recession.

"I was one of the people who was laid off and I tried really hard to find a job and I kept trying and trying, so when he did the extensions, I actually needed the unemployment extension. So that was like the first thing he helped out with," Teame said.


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