WASHINGTON (AP) — Eight tumultuous years at the helm of American power have come and gone, and for President Barack Obama, this is finally the end.
The president spent his last full day Thursday at the White House before becoming an ex-president. The big decisions and grand pronouncements are all behind him, but Obama is still in charge until President-elect Donald Trump takes the oath at noon on Friday.
The White House left Obama’s schedule mostly empty for the day, saying he would use the time to pack up the home he and his family have lived in for most of a decade. The only events on his public calendar were his presidential daily briefing and his final weekly lunch with Vice President Joe Biden in the president’s private dining room.
Only a skeleton staff remained Thursday at the White House, creating an eerily quiet feeling in the normally bustling West Wing. Photos of Obama and his family that for years have lined the walls of corridors in the West Wing were being taken down, with some to be transferred to Obama’s personal office, leaving big white spaces on the walls.
Many desks and offices were already empty, having been vacated by staffers who departed in recent weeks. Those staffers still left were packing up their desks, handing in their phones and saying teary farewells to their colleagues.
In what may be his last act as president, Obama was planning to grant one final round of clemency on Thursday, following hundreds of commutations and pardons he issued earlier in the week. Officials said the last batch would focus on nonviolent drug offenders serving lengthy prison sentences, a population Obama has long sought to assist through clemency.
In his final news conference on Wednesday, Obama sought to end his chapter in history on an optimistic note. He said that despite his party’s devastating losses in the election, he was confident in the country’s future, adding, “this is not just a matter of ‘no-drama Obama,’ this is what I really believe.”
“It is true that behind closed doors, I curse more than I do publicly, and sometimes I get mad and frustrated like everybody else does,” Obama said. “But at my core, I think we’re going to be OK. We just have to fight for it, we have to work for it and not take it for granted.”