Later in the speech, Obama noted, "the world is too small for us to simply build a wall."
It was a speech that sought to highlight the significant progress over the course of Obama's presidency on such issues as climate change, economic security and advocating for democratic freedoms — as he seeks to cement his legacy.
"The integration of our global economy has made life better for billions of our women and children," he said, adding "our international order has been so successful we take it as a given that great powers no longer fight wars."
It was also a speech that underscored that, despite the progress, challenges remain as the world grapples with the rise of ISIS and eyes North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
Obama also specifically spoke out against what he called a "strong man" leadership model, arguing instead for nations with democratic governments and strong independent news institutions. He seemed to contrast with the leadership approaches of both Trump and Vladimir Putin.
"Those of use who believe in democracy, we need to speak out forcefully," he said adding, "I believe in a liberal political order."
The president acknowledged the growing gap between the rich and poor, particularly in the U.S. He argued policies such as expanding labor unions and increasing education would help address these disparities.
"The answer cannot be a simple rejection of global integration," Obama said. "We have to make sure the benefits of such integration are broadly shared."
Obama arrived in office in 2009 set on winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But his speech illustrated how the world has changed in the last eight years.
While U.S. troops remain in both nations, the president seemed as worried about economics and culture as military issues.
"We are seeing the same forces of global integration that have made us interdependent also expose deep fault lines in the existing international order," the president said.