US Presidents have, over the many decades, had varying degrees of send offs; some inglorious and shameful, some quiet and unnoticed, and then there is President Obama’s farewell, which stands out as emotional and moving. I listened to his farewell speech in Chicago three times, not because I wanted to record some facts, but simply because tenor, depth and resonance of those words needed to heard again and again. There are many too who would criticize the man for being good on words and short on deeds, and as he put it, this is the hallmark of a democracy; the right to disagree. In equal measure those who accuse him of being decisive would find it hard to find fault in his message of unity and togetherness.
Leaders are not expected to be perfect and all that is asked of them is to be genuine and true. Obama has had his faults and short comings too; an economic expansion that ignored some segments, the inability to condemn the 65 civilians killed in drone strikes, the silence as Israel slaughtered 2000 Palestinians in 50 days (of those killed 550 were children), and the list can perhaps go on, but we cannot fault him for not trying to make a difference. Obama is often accused of sheltering the Muslims at the expense of the nation, a claim that needs to be examined at length; suffice to mention here there is nothing wrong when he says, “Do not blame Islam for the actions of a minority of so called Muslims.”
Obama, it would seem, came to office with more expectations of him than any other president before him. I guess this comes with the burden of being ‘the first’ in any field. In a sense this may explain his constant effort to appease all sections of society and, in the eyes of some, falling short with each section. Yet when we look at legacies we need to stop counting trees and see the forest as a whole. We need to see not only what our part of the agenda was fulfilled but what the essence of the persons legacy means to us.
President Obama, along with his charming wife, Michelle, brought wholesomeness to the White House that it seriously lacked. The reaching out and the genuineness that flowed from the portals of that esteemed residence were not just photo opportunities but one could feel the warmth, concern and care for people was deep rooted. There was intellect in the Oval Office, there was humor, there empathy, perhaps the most important ingredient in a man’s arsenal of what we call Character.
Yes amongst us there will be some who will say Obama handed Trump the election victory by not delivering on his promises. First all as measures go he delivered on most of his promises in substantial strides of success. Secondly, the people elected Trump, go blame yourself for what you have put in the White House, no one put a gun to your head and said vote Trump. In so far as contrasts go for me the biggest thing I will miss is the eloquent speeches of President Obama, which will soon be replaced by the vocabulary lacking, wobbling utterances from a new President whose command of the English language is just about enough to get a Twitter message out.
On to Meryl Streep, an actress who oozes talent, and steeped as she may be in liberal politics, her remarks about a man of power mocking a disabled reporter had nothing to do with liberal politics; it was about decency, compassion and empathy. The fact that Mr. Trump’s only reaction was to call her an ‘over rated actress’ shows either man is living on Mars or is a total buffoon. You do not get over 127 acting awards and nominations in your career and remain ‘over rated’. Yes celebrities should speak of issues of social consciousness, they are icons of the young generation and if they do not have empathy for society then who will?
Sadly we must adjust to the new times where the new President will be twitting at all times of the night his outrage at reporters, world leaders and celebrities when they ‘dare’ to criticize him. What is bloodcurdling is that in a democracy to wear a skin that thin and then to sit in the White House as the most powerful man and tweet your temper out portends a mindset of immaturity or intolerance, or perhaps both. We must this week take time and listen to President Obama’s speech and Meryl Streep’s speech a few times and absorb the message of each word, each sentence a little more deeply. Sadly we know that such oratory will not will coming from the White House after January 20th, so Meryl its all up to you.