(WTXF/AP) - President Barack Obama will deliver a valedictory speech on Tuesday, following a tradition set in 1796 when the first president, George Washington, spoke to the American people for the last time in office. The speech will take place at McCormick Place, a giant convention center in Obama's hometown of Chicago.
Saturday, thousands of people braved freezing weather to get a ticket at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center. The Chicago Sun-Times reported lines began to form at 4:30am. Even early birds faced waiting several hours to get a free ticket.
Obama has been spending his last few weeks in office tying up loose ends and putting finishing touches on his legacy before handing the reins to President-elect Donald Trump.
"I'm thinking about them as a chance to say thank you for this amazing journey, to celebrate the ways you've changed this country for the better these past eight years, and to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here," Obama said when he made the anouncement about Tuesday.
Obama's chief speechwriter, Cody Keenan, traveled with Obama to Hawaii and spent much of his trip, last month, working on the speech. This Chicago trip will likely be Obama's last outside Washington as president and will be include a "family reunion" for Obama's former campaign staffers.
The final days are Obama's last chance to define his presidency before his loses the bully pulpit and cedes his legacy to historians. For Obama, helping Americans understand how his two terms have reshaped American life is even more critical amid concerns that Trump may undo much of what he accomplished, including the health law.
As Trump and Republicans vow to gut the Affordable Care Act, Democrats are working to devise a strategy to protect the law by exploiting GOP divisions about how to replace it.
His administration is also working feverishly to finish up regulations in the pipeline that Obama hopes can be completed in the final days, perhaps increasing the likelihood his policies carry over. But the closer it gets to Trump's inauguration, the harder those tasks become.
Though Obama remains president until Jan. 20, the White House can't process the departure of all its staffers on a single day. So this week Obama aides will start "offloading," turning in their Blackberries and shutting down their computers for the last time, leaving a smaller staff on hand for the final days.
Obama must also prepare to become a private citizen for the first time in two decades. An office of the former president must be stood up, and Obama's family will be moving into a rental home in Northwest Washington where they plan to stay until youngest daughter Sasha finishes high school.