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President Obama’s Last Flight On Air Force One

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Copyright: White House/Pete Souza

Get an inside look at the President Obama’s Last Flight On Air Force One.

There were many last times for President Obama today.  The President’s cabinets are also in their last days.  Before joining the President for farewell even for the Presidential Airlift Group, outgoing National Security Adviser Susan Rice gave her final speech at the “Passing the Baton” conference. Rice will be replaced by General Mike Flynn.

After a few formalities, Rice opened with a joke – “Mike, I imagine you’ll soon appreciate why—instead of a baton—I’d be better off passing you a case of Red Bull.” 

After speaking of the many security and foreign policy challenges faced by the Obama administration, Rice rather subtly indicated her support for Obama’s internationalist approach to foreign policy and cautioned against isolationism.

“In the face of these challenges, ‎it might be tempting to turn inward.  Therein lies the United States’ third strategic challenge.  We must protect ourselves and the international order we helped build, without subordinating our values or abandoning the alliances, partnerships, and cooperation that have yielded unprecedented global prosperity and progress.”

Rice concluded with a strong call for national unity and expressed her desire to support the incoming administration.

“[W]hile it’s no secret that this Administration has profound disagreements with the next one, I intend to make myself available to him, just as my predecessors have for me.  We are all patriots first and foremost.  Threats to our security and democracy should be above partisanship.”

Outgoing National Security Council Spokesman Ned Price did not have such a cordial day, however.  Today, Price released the following statement:

“The United States strongly condemns the terrorist attack on Parliamentary buildings in Kabul today that killed at least 38 Afghans and wounded more than 70. An attack on Parliamentary facilities and lawmakers is clearly an assault on Afghanistan’s efforts to build democratic institutions. We also strongly condemn the terrorist attack today in Kandahar that killed at least seven people and wounded 18, including the United Arab Emirates’ Ambassador to Afghanistan and several Emirati diplomatic personnel, and the suicide bomb attack in southern Helmand province today that killed at least seven Afghans, including both civilian and military personnel. We commend the Afghan police and other security forces who bravely responded to these attacks, and fully support Afghan efforts to bring those responsible to justice. The United States stands with the people and Government of Afghanistan as we work together to build a more secure, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan.”

One understands Rice’s joke about Red Bull more clearly in this context.  The dangers in the world don’t take a break while the US changes administrations.  But while the essential parts of America’s security apparatus continue, the outgoing heads do their best to ensure a smooth transition.

Hours after Rice “handed the baton” over to General Flynn, President Obama along with the First Lady, daughter Malia, and a few others, boarded a helicopter to give his farewell to the Presidential Airlift Group at Joint Base Andrews.  Following this brief event, the Obama’s would board Air Force One for the last time as President and First Lady.

Shortly before Mr. Obama arrived at Andrews, White House aides were at the foot of the stairs leading up to AF1 taking photos, posing for selfies. Cecilia Munoz hugged several of them. Also spotted in the group: Cody Keenan, Josh Earnest, Jen Psaki, Brian Mosteller, Jason Furman. A couple minutes after those aides boarded the plane, Susan Rice, and Lisa Monaco pulled up in an SUV. Ms. Rice was talking on the phone as she got out of the vehicle and walked up the stairs, followed by Ms. Monaco.

The President arrived at Andrews at 3:50 PM EST.  They were all bundled up because of the cold.  President Obama stepped off the helicopter at 3:50 pm. He was followed by the first lady Michelle Obama, Malia Obama, the President’s sister Auma Obama and family friend Kaye Wilson.


The President and First Lady got into an SUV waiting next to Marine One. They took a short motorcade to another location on the base.

Malia Obama, her aunt Auma and Ms. Wilson did not go to the event and instead boarded Air Force One.

The motorcade arrived back at Air Force One at 4:17 pm.  The President and First Lady stepped out of the SUV, both are wearing long black coats.  Four Air Force One military officers were lined up perpendicular to the stairs to Air Force One.  Obama shook hands with them and posed for a photo.  Obama walked away and turned to aide Joe Paulsen for some challenge coins to give the officers. When he turned around they had gone back to their posts.  Obama didn’t realize they had walked away and was surprised.  Always dutiful!

The President and First Lady then boarded Air Force One at Andrews at 4:19 pm for the last time.  They were joining their daughter Malia and the others they had brought with them, as well as CNN’s Lester Holt.  Obama’s last flight on Air Force One took him to Chicago, a very appropriate place to finish his political career, as that is where it also began.

It was so windy in the windy city that President Obama motorcaded into the city rather than by helicopter as he usually does.

The President deplaned Air Force One at 5:35 pm. Michelle and Malia Obama followed. The wind was apparently too strong for the high stairs to the President’s usual Air Force One exit door. So he exited from the stairs that pop out of the belly of the plane.

There are only 10 days left of Obama’s Presidency, as President-Elect Donald Trump will be inaugurated on January 20th.  Obama has likely made all important final decisions as President and is now mainly engaged in final ceremonial duties.  There will be a few more last times yet in the next nine days.

Read more: Serious Security Concerns Are Facing The Incoming Trump Administration

Read more: Reaching Higher With The First Lady: The Farewell Weekend To The Obamas

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About the author

Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Florida State College at Jacksonville. He conducts independent study on the American conservative movement and foreign policy. When he is not talking politics, Richard is an aspiring novelist, and culinary hobbyist. Richard holds MSc from London School of Economics in Political Science.

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