President Barack Obama returned to Chicago, his adopted hometown, Tuesday night to deliver a farewell address marking the end of his eight years in office. Thousands attended the speech at McCormick Place, where Obama paid tribute to his administration’s accomplishments, his family and staff.  Recalling at first his early days as an organizer in Chicago, the president delivered an optimistic message urging national unity and political participation, but also warned of various threats to American democracy, including income inequality, racism and toxic politics.

Looking back to his historic election as the nation’s first African American president, Obama said, “After my election there was talk of a post-racial America. And such a vision, however well intended, was never realistic. Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. Now I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, no matter what some folks say. … But we’re not where we need to be. And all of us have more work to do.”

See photos of the evening and interviews with attendees by photographer Max Herman.

Max Herman is a freelance photographer based in Chicago.

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