- The Washington Times - Friday, January 20, 2017

Former President Obama departed Washington Friday after Donald Trump’s inauguration, telling supporters on his journey out of power that his administration had proved “the power of hope.”

“Democracy is not the buildings, it’s not the monuments,” Mr. Obama told about 1,800 former staffers at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. “It’s you, being willing to work to make things better. You proved the power of hope.”

He said their work won’t end with his presidency.

“This is just a little pit stop. This is not a period, this is a comma in the continuing story,” Mr. Obama said.

The ex-president and former first lady Michelle Obama flew to Andrews on a military helicopter from the Capitol after attending the swearing-in of Mr. Trump as the nation’s 45th president. After the brief ceremony at the military base, they boarded the presidential aircraft — no longer called Air Force One, a designation reserved for the sitting president — and took off for Palm Springs, California, for a vacation.

Mr. Obama began his final day in office with routine and tradition, with most of his White House staffers gone and photographs removed from the walls of the West Wing. He signed one last bill into law, extending a presidential fellowship program at executive branch agencies.

Then the Obamas welcomed Mr. Trump and incoming first lady Melania Trump to the White House for a tradition coffee and tea reception with congressional leaders, Vice President Joseph R. Biden and wife Jill, and incoming Vice President Mike Pence and wife Karen, before the inauguration.

The Trumps and the Obamas smiled for cameras on the North Portico of the White House, belying a transition period that was the most tense in recent memory.

The Obamas left the White House for the last time at 10:52 a.m., riding in a motorcade with the Trumps to the Capitol.

The Twitter account of the Obama White House posted one last tweet Friday morning:

“Yes we can. Yes we did. Thank you for being a part of the past eight years,” it said, repeating Mr. Obama’s campaign slogan from 2008.

During Mr. Trump’s inaugural address, the Obamas sat a few feet away as the new president thanked them for their graciousness during the transition, then criticized Mr. Obama’s leadership implicitly throughout his speech.

“We have defended other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own,” Mr. Trump said, and “subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.”

In his brief address to his former staffers, Mr. Obama said his team had embarked on an effort nearly 10 years ago “to join together and change the country in ways that would make life better for our kids and our grandkids.”

“Some folks didn’t think we could pull it off,” he said. “All of you came together … and you decided to believe. It was hope in the face of uncertainty. You proved the power of hope.”

Mrs. Obama couldn’t hold back tears as her husband spoke.

“Throughout this process, Michelle and I have just been your front men, and front women,” Mr. Obama said. “This has never been about us. It has always been about you. All of the amazing things that have happened over the last 10 years are really just a testament to you.”

He also praised the country’s “amazing military.”

“The military’s not a thing, it’s a group of committed patriots willing to sacrifice everything on our behalf,” Mr. Obama said. “It works only because of the people in it.”

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