In a 20-minute farewell address published Tuesday afternoon, outgoing President Donald Trump expressed his pride in having served as the 45th commander-in-chief and urged Americans to come together in prayer for President-elect Joe Biden and for the continued success of the country.
Standing behind the presidential podium and flanked by four American flags, the 74-year-old Trump said he is “truly proud of what we have achieved together,” adding, “We did what we came here to do — and so much more.”
“This week,” he continued, “we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous.”
“We extend our best wishes,” Trump said, referring to Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. “And we also want them to have luck — a very important word.”
Trump, who has said he will not attend Biden’s inauguration Wednesday, is leaving office at a time when the American people are bitterly divided.
He explained in his final speech from the White House that the “greatest danger” ahead for Americans “is a loss of confidence in ourselves, a loss of confidence in our national greatness.”
“A nation is only as strong as its spirit,” Trump said. “We are only as dynamic as our pride. We are only as vibrant as the faith that beats in the hearts of our people. No nation can long thrive that loses faith in its own values, history, and heroes — for these are the very sources of our unity and our vitality.”
Trump, who then pivoted to addressing the importance of protecting the freedom of speech, encouraged Americans to spend time “focusing on what we have in common, the heritage that we all share.”
“At the center of this heritage is also a robust belief in free expression, free speech, and open debate,” the president said. “Only if we forget who we are and how we got here could we ever allow political censorship and blacklisting to take place in America. It’s not even thinkable. Shutting down free and open debate violates our core values and most enduring traditions.”
“In America,” Trump continued, “we don’t insist on absolute conformity or enforce rigid orthodoxies and punitive speech codes. We just don’t do that. America is not a timid nation of tame souls who need to be sheltered and protected from those with whom we disagree. That’s not who we are. It will never be who we are.”
The Republican leader praised the American people for always displaying “unmatched courage, confidence, and fierce independence,” describing those characteristics as the “miraculous traits that once led millions of every day citizens to set out across a wild continent and carve out a new life in the great West.”
“It was the same profound love of our God-given freedom that willed our soldiers into battle and our astronauts into space,” Trump said. “As I think back on the past four years, one image rises in my mind above all others: Whenever I traveled all along the motorcade route, there were thousands and thousands of people. They came out with their families so they could stand as we passed and proudly wave our great American flag.”
That gesture from his supporters, Trump explained, “never failed to deeply move me.” He went on to say those who waved their flags when his motorcade drove by weren’t doing so just to show their support for him. Instead, Trump said, “They came out to show me their support and love for our country.”
Trump’s address comes on the eve of Biden’s inauguration and less than two weeks after a fringe group of pro-Trump rioters breached the U.S. Capitol in what ultimately morphed into a violent and deadly melee.
The scene that unfolded in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 left Americans “horrified,” according to the president, who described political violence as “an attack on everything we cherish as Americans” and something that should “never be tolerated.”
Six people — including two Capitol Police officers — died as a result of the mob riot. In the wake of the attack, the Democrat-led House of Representatives impeached Trump for a second time, many arguing it was the president’s own rhetoric and his oft-repeated claim that the 2020 election was stolen that triggered the violent uprising. Ten Republicans voted with the Democrats in support of the impeachment.
“Now, more than ever, we must unify around our shared values and rise above the partisan rancor and forge our common destiny,” Trump said Tuesday.
Watch the full farewell address in the video above.