Wed Jan 11, 2017 2:16PM
US President Barack Obama cries as he speaks during his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois, on January 10, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
US President Barack Obama cries as he speaks during his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois, on January 10, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Outgoing US President Barack Obama has used his farewell speech to warn that the country’s  growing economic inequality and racial tensions pose a major threat to American democracy.

Obama issued the warning as he said goodbye to the nation on Tuesday at the McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois, the same place where he gave his presidential victory speech in 2008.

His farewell speech came following one of the most divisive presidential elections in US history and a deep sense that the poisonous political environment has set Americans against each other.

Obama called on Americans to work together to protect democracy in their country and make it work. "Democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted," he said.

The outgoing president also warned about the dangers of extreme inequality and racism.

“Our economy doesn't work as well or grow as fast when a few prosper at the expense of a growing middle class. But stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic principles,” he stated. “While the top one percent has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income, too many families, in inner cities and rural counties, have been left behind.”

“The laid-off factory worker; the waitress and health care worker who struggle to pay the bills - convinced that the game is fixed against them, that their government only serves the interests of the powerful - a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics,” he warned.

Speaking about the threat of growing racial tensions in the US, Obama said: “After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic. For race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society.”

Further in his farewell speech, Obama spoke about the achievements during his eight-year presidency, including reforms in the US healthcare system as well as the landmark nuclear deal with Iran.

Obama also said his administration will do all it can to ensure the smoothest possible transition of power to Republican President-elect Donald Trump, who will take office on January 20.

During Trump’s presidential campaign, he repeatedly claimed that the presidential election is being rigged and that he will not accept the result of the election if he loses, challenging a centerpiece of US democracy.