With pride and (admittedly) prejudice…
March 25, 2016
I know, without needing independent confirmation, these are the halcyon days. And before they disappear I want to capture the spirit, the pride, the feel-good the rest of the world sees in us, as our President returns from a historic trip to Cuba, brokered by no less than The Pope. And the extended trip to Argentina where there is healing needed also. Where we watched he and Michelle dance the tango there with flair.
I’m starting to miss him, miss them, already.
Look, I know the difference. I voted for Nixon… twice. And Clinton… twice. I am hard pressed now to explain my reasoning for either to my teenage granddaughter.
This president came to us when the entire balance of the planet seemed to hang in abeyance — a recession with double digit unemployment, the terror of Bin Laden, the dying Detroit auto industry, a lack of health care for all Americans, a lack of equality for LGBT people, a dearth of intellect and culture. It was exceedingly grim for any politician to step into. Let alone the first black president. Because even though Bill Clinton was often referred to as the first black president, he isn’t actually black.
Nine months into his first term President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Embarrassed by the honor, he stated he hadn’t done anything to earn it. But the European community saw it vastly differently. They saw the very act of a Harvard graduated black man being elected to lead and serve a country of people — who in some states still flew Confederate flags — as a sign of remarkable possibilities and healing. His intellect, his youth, his taking crisis after crisis and settling in to fix them. They saw in us something we could not see in ourselves — they saw hope and a chance at reconciliation. The Peace prize went to President Obama. The hope, I think, was meant to be distributed evenly.
For those of us who are not black, we forget what every black person knows on a cellular level: for more than half the history of our country black people were enslaved, and then they spent another hundred years treated as a lesser class of humans– treated badly at lunch counters and voting booths and in all seats on the bus.
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Some truths should be self-evident. We should never have had to say, "Black Lives Matter."
Barack and his young daughters, and Princeton graduate wife Michelle, moved into that White House and set about fixing a myriad of broken pieces of the foundation.
He tried so many initiatives in his first term most brought down by the opposition who still were surprised there was a black man in the White House.
Now in his final term, he is busy doing every positive thing he can. Scholars say he will be ranked as one of our top five presidents in history, but now we keep hearing the angry noise of small-handed people who want to pull apart not just this president but the presidency itself.
In seven years President Obama succeeded in arranging affordable healthcare for all our citizens, saving the auto industry, eliminating our enemy in Bin Laden, and embracing LGBT marriage. And he and Michelle made it their mission, right from the start, to make certain our military — often ignored when they returned — came home to the honors and full services they deserve.
They have raised two smart young women who looked appropriate and beautiful at their turn at the big kids table recently with the first family of Canada. They all — the entire family — have stayed out of the scandal spotlight.
Let me repeat that and think of the last few presidents who cannot say this — regardless of their party.
The entire family has stayed out of the scandal spotlight.
This First Family has walked (and danced) their talk. They have been respectful of tradition and they are young enough to have thrown in some fun.
Recently a snippet of an interview surfaced where the president said his family would remain in the D.C. area after his term ends in January. There had been speculation about Chicago or one of the coasts post-presidency. Before the tape is shut off, the president/father says they will remain in the area so his young daughter can finish high school with her friends, while her big sister heads off to college. It was a simple statement packed with compassion, grown out of a youth that moved him around a lot.
Now at the end of his time in office he is hell bent on completions. He is no longer "trying to make nice," as the Dixie Chicks might sing. Always the scholar and the competitive guy, he wants to finish everything possible before the buzzer sounds — a Supreme Court Justice appointment, protecting/naming national monuments, pushing for systems to reduce climate change
The world watches how we are going about replacing him. One need only to pick up publications from The Guardian to La Prensa to see how they fear for our future.
And we should, too.
But before we become reduced to separate parties, perhaps a third party, could we now praise famous men? Or a man and a woman — because they have governed and grown us in their good deeds, together. He (which always really means they) was elected to do a job. We have watched them work hard, with dignity and respect for the office. Uniting, at every possible chance, these often disparate states of America.
I am proud of my president and of the best parts of my country who elected him. Twice.
In my lifetime average of voting, I finally got one right. And I can feel good about that, this Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.