As Air Force One touches down in Chicago for one final time ferrying Barack Obama as a sitting president, thousands will be waiting patiently along Lake Michigan to say farewell.
Fittingly his final speech will be in a city in which his ascent to the White House began to take shape.
A political organizer, Obama was first elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1996 and to the United States Senate in 2004.
On a frozen February morning in 2007, he announced his run for the White House.
“I recognize there is a certain presumptuousness — a certain audacity — to this announcement,” Obama told those gathered outside the Old State Capitol in Springfield. “I know I haven't spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change.”
Now two elections later, only days remain.
As president, Obama guided the country through a near economic collapse, the ending of two wars and a signature health care law.
He has been forced to deal with an unyielding threat of terrorism, mass domestic tragedies and a country that remains deeply politically divided.
In a White House interview last week Obama summed up his 8 years.
“We didn’t get everything we wanted to get done,” the president said, standing in the Diplomatic Reception Room. And then added this about the state of the nation, “I think we are well positioned for the future.”
As he prepared for tonight’s address, Senior Advisor — and long-time friend — Valerie Jarrett said the president is prepared to make his exit.
“He’s pretty good,” said Jarrett when asked if the president is emotional. “He’s in better shape than I seem to be I’ll tell you. I think he is obviously pragmatic, he believes in the democracy, he thinks there is a good reason why 8 years is the full length of your term. But I think he will miss this.”