In a 32-page, handwritten address after eight years in office, George Washington used his parting remarks to urge Americans to see themselves as a cohesive unit and to avoid political parties. He also warned of attachments and entanglements with other nations. Washington’s address was printed in Philadelphia’s American Daily Advertiser on Sept. 19, 1796, nearly six months before he left office.
Andrew Jackson, the nation’s seventh president, also published a farewell, in 1837.
But it wasn’t until Harry Truman’s televised goodbye from the Oval Office late on Jan. 15, 1953, that such an address became standard for presidents.
Here are portions of the concluding statements made by U.S. presidents of the last four decades in their parting addresses:
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1961)
“We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.”
Lyndon Baines Johnson (he included his farewell during his 1969 State of the Union address)
I believe deeply in the ultimate purposes of this Nation—described by the Constitution, tempered by history, embodied in progressive laws, and given life by men and women that have been elected to serve their fellow citizens …
No President should ask for more, although I did upon occasions. But few Presidents have ever been blessed with so much …
Now, it is time to leave. I hope it may be said, a hundred years from now, that by working together we helped to make our country more just, more just for all of its people, as well as to insure and guarantee the blessings of liberty for all of our posterity.
That is what I hope. But I believe that at least it will be said that we tried.
Richard Nixon (on Aug. 9, 1974, following his resignation)
Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.
And so, we leave with high hopes, in good spirit, and with deep humility, and with very much gratefulness in our hearts. I can only say to each and every one of you, we come from many faiths, we pray perhaps to different gods -- but really the same God in a sense -- but I want to say for each and every one of you, not only will we always remember you, not only will we always be grateful to you but always you will be in our hearts and you will be in our prayers.
Gerald Ford (on Jan. 12, 1977, during his State of the Union address)
My fellow Americans, I once asked you for your prayers, and now I give you mine: May God guide this wonderful country, its people, and those they have chosen to lead them. May our third century be illuminated by liberty and blessed with brotherhood, so that we and all who come after us may be the humble servants of thy peace. Amen.
Good night. God bless you.
Jimmy Carter (Jan. 14, 1981)
As I return home to the South, where I was born and raised, I look forward to the opportunity to reflect and further to assess, I hope with accuracy, the circumstances of our times. I intend to give our new President my support, and I intend to work as a citizen, as I've worked here in this office as President, for the values this Nation was founded to secure.
Again, from the bottom of my heart, I want to express to you the gratitude I feel. Thank you, fellow citizens, and farewell.
Ronald Reagan (Jan. 11, 1989)
We've done our part. And as I walk off into the city streets, a final word to the men and women of the Reagan revolution, the men and women across America who for 8 years did the work that brought America back. My friends: We did it. We weren't just marking time. We made a difference. We made the city stronger, we made the city freer, and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad, not bad at all.
And so, goodbye, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
George H.W. Bush (in an address at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, Jan. 5, 1993)
There are many forms of contributing to this country, of public service. Yes, there’s government. There is voluntarism. I love to talk about the Thousand Points of Light, one American helping another. In whatever form, service benefits our society, and it ennobles the giver. It is a cherished American concept, one we should continue to practice and pass on to our children...
You are beginning your service to country, and I am nearing the end of mine … You will also be entering a new world, one far better than the one I came to know, a world with the potential to be far better yet. This is the challenge. This is the opportunity of your lifetimes. I envy you for it, and I wish you Godspeed.
Bill Clinton (Jan. 18, 2001)
We must work harder to overcome our differences. In our hearts and in our laws, we must treat all our people with fairness and dignity, regardless of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation and regardless of when they arrived in our country, always moving toward the more perfect union of our founders' dreams …
As for me, I'll leave the presidency more idealistic, more full of hope than the day I arrived and more confident than ever that America's best days lie ahead.
George W. Bush (Jan. 15, 2009)
It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve as your President. There have been good days and tough days. But every day I have been inspired by the greatness of our country, and uplifted by the goodness of our people. I have been blessed to represent this nation we love. And I will always be honored to carry a title that means more to me than any other - citizen of the United States of America.
Barack Obama (Jan. 10, 2017)
I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written: Yes, we can.
Yes, we did. Yes, we can.
Donald J. Trump (Jan. 19, 2021)
As long as the American people hold in their hearts deep and devoted love of country, then there is nothing that this nation cannot achieve.
Our communities will flourish.
Our people will be prosperous. Our traditions will be cherished.
Our faith will be strong. And our future will be brighter than ever before.
I go from this majestic place with a loyal and joyful heart, an optimistic spirit, and a supreme confidence that for our country and for our children, the best is yet to come.
Thank you, and farewell. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.