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Obama A 'Father Figure' Says Teen Who Witnessed His Farewell Speech

 My Block My Hood My City took teens to see President Barack Obama's farewell speech.
My Block My Hood My City took teens to see President Barack Obama's farewell speech.
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Ramon Forte

CHICAGO — Standing in the same room with President Barack Obama as he gave his farewell speech was an amazing experience for 15-year-old Tim Johnson.

The Morgan Park High School student from Roseland said he couldn’t stop screaming when Obama walked onto the stage before the two-term president with Chicago roots gave his last speech at McCormick Place Tuesday.

“I was so excited,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to see him speak in person.”

Getting the call to learn he could attend was a “wow” moment for Johnson, he said.

“I was like ‘This can’t be happening, this can’t be true.’”

That trip almost didn’t happen though.


Tim Johnson (second from left) and other teens at McCormick Place [Provided/Ramon Forte]

My Block My Hood My City group founder Jahmal Cole originally failed at securing tickets for the teenagers he works with. He stood in line for five hours on Saturday to get the tickets, but he was too late, he said. Cole put the call out through Facebook and the city stepped up. A total of 15 people donated their tickets. Those who gave tickets included people from all over Chicago, including Ald. James Cappleman (46th).

For the teens, who came from the South and West Sides, the experience was transformative, Cole said.

Jahmal Cole took teens from the West Side to see President Barack Obama give his farewell speech. [Photo by Ramon Forte]

“Thank you to everyone who donated a ticket, liked and shared our messages,” he posted on Facebook. “It was a whirlwind of a weekend, and my team and I were thrilled to attend the Obama Farewell Address with our explorers...”

Johnson said that he loves that this country’s first black president is from his city.

“He has stood as a strong African-American man to me and a father figure,” Johnson said. “He's a great example to us and he has done so much.”

He also said that Obama represented strength.

“He’s so amazing,” Johnson said. “It has been tough, but he got through it and he stayed strong.”

One takeaway from the speech was to stay encouraged, Johnson said, which he plans to do as President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

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