Final days inside the Obama White House

President Obama says goodbye
President Obama says goodbye

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    President Obama says goodbye

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President Obama says goodbye 04:01

Story highlights

  • CNN gained unique access inside the White House to document President Obama's final days
  • Speechwriters discuss strategy for Obama's final address

Washington (CNN)When President Barack Obama emerged to greet a massive, cheering audience at the cavernous McCormick Place convention center in Chicago on January 10, he was looking to the path ahead and reflecting about the legacy he was leaving behind.

"It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy," the President said. "To embrace the joyous task we've been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours."
But before he uttered the words that will go down in history as his final address to the nation, his speechwriting team had to answer one, massive crucial question: What on Earth should the president even say?
    CNN Films was allowed unique access into that conversation and other moments rarely seen by the public as part of a new documentary, "The End: Inside the Last Days of the Obama White House." The film picks up right after the November 8 election, which ushered in Donald J. Trump as America's president elect.
    In the weeks that followed that unprecedented win, cameras trailed Obama staffers as they went about the task of preparing to transition. CNN captured the candor that occurred in private, as the West Wing dealt with election results that no one in the White House expected.
    From the morning after the election, to the last annual turkey pardon, to Obama's farewell address, go behind the scenes of four memorable moments from the end of Obama's presidency.
    1. The morning after the election
    Inside a meeting of Obama's speechwriters
    Inside a meeting of Obama's speechwriters

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      Inside a meeting of Obama's speechwriters

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    Inside a meeting of Obama's speechwriters 02:09
    The morning after Election Day, the president appeared upbeat in the Rose Garden, reminding the nation that it's more than Democrats and Republicans. "We're actually all on one team."
    Obama's entire speech on presidential election results
    Obama's entire speech on presidential election results

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      Obama's entire speech on presidential election results

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    Obama's entire speech on presidential election results 09:01
    2. The tense press conferences leading up to the inauguration
    White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained again and again during his daily briefings how the unthinkable could have happened, and how the White House planned to move forward. It was captured in the CNN documentary.
    President Obama's press secretary opens up
    President Obama's press secretary opens up

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      President Obama's press secretary opens up

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    President Obama's press secretary opens up 01:17
    3. That final turkey pardon
    After journeys to Europe and Peru, the president returned to Washington to preside over the traditional Thanksgiving Turkey Pardoning ceremony, which was usually full of fun. But this time, because of the election, it was different. CNN sat in on staffers meeting about how to write the speech.
    Inside a White House meeting to 'pardon' a turkey
    Inside a White House meeting to 'pardon' a turkey

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      Inside a White House meeting to 'pardon' a turkey

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    Inside a White House meeting to 'pardon' a turkey 02:30
    4. Obama's farewell address
    Instead of delivering his final address on his presidency from the White House. Obama and his team began work on the capstone of his final weeks in office: a farewell address delivered in his adopted hometown.
    That's when chief speechwriter Cody Keenan and his colleagues gathered to discuss strategy about which angle they should take for this important moment. Soon, they saw the results of their work that night in Chicago.
    Obama: We give democracy power
    Obama: We give democracy power

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      Obama: We give democracy power

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    Obama: We give democracy power 02:15
    Keenan -- sitting in that private meeting with his staff -- told his colleagues he thinks young people have been happy to have Barack Obama as their leader.
    "I think it's time to pass the torch to them," Keenan said. "It's important to remind people of the duties of citizenship."