The art of saying goodbye

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First Lady Michelle Obama delivers her final White House speech on  Jan. 6, 2017. Photo by Chip Somodevilla and Getty Images

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers her final White House speech on Jan. 6, 2017. Photo by Chip Somodevilla and Getty Images

President Obama gives his public valediction tonight at 9 pm ET in Chicago. Much has been forecast (see our Politics Monday segment last night), but here we thought we’d quickly provide some examples of farewells done well.

Lou Gehrig, July 4, 1939. Short, moving and sincere.

Douglas MacArthur, April 19, 1951. MacArthur has long been a lightning-rod, controversial figure. But returning from service in the Pacific and following years of clashes with President Truman, his farewell address to Congress is an example of how to find quotable moments when you say goodbye.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jan. 17, 1961. This is a good example of focus in a departing message. In Mr. Eisenhower’s case that was a warning about the growth of the defense/military-industrial complex post World War II.

Michelle Obama, Jan. 6, 2017. It is with some thought that we highlight such a recent speech. But First Lady Michelle Obama, especially in the past turbulent year, has proven herself to be one of the most powerful speakers in the country. And a tough, interesting comparison point for her husband.

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