The hellacious and raucous circus that is the 2016 presidential election race has acted, in its own way, as a sort of distractor of the means for its very existence: the termination of President Barrack Obama’s current term.
Yes, President Obama has indeed continued to exist and work, executing the presidential duties that remain his job even as a race as loud as the current one rages ever onward. And I think a consideration of Obama in his waning days is much deserved.
I’m too young to properly remember 9/11, the day that shaped large amounts of political policies, acts and actions since. I only vaguely remember seeing former President George W. Bush on the television. He is almost as much of a historic figure to me as say Jimmy Carter, still alive and well, enjoying the quiet post-presidential life, but everything I know about him and his time as president absorbed in hindsight, after the fact, even though Bush was in office until I was in sixth grade.
I think most people my age can remember when President Obama was elected and sworn in. They should, it is something worth noting for a lifetime. I remember talking to my friends on the playground of my elementary school after he was elected, us sitting in a circle on the grass thinking we were geniuses and nonsensically analyzing what his election meant. We all had different opinions on the matter. But the point of all this nostalgic memory crap is that Barrack Obama has been the first president I have been consciously aware of, the first and only president at this point in my life I have been able to follow closely and pay attention to on a daily basis. People older than me that remember the presidency of George W. Bush and with more fully-formed brains in 2008 probably have a better grasp of what it all meant. They know what its like to live under two different presidents.
I don’t. I doubt most people my age do.
But we will soon. And in times like these, with the election now only seven months away, I think it is important to maybe take a second, tear our eyes away from Donald Trump accusing the GOP of rigging the system against him and Hillary Clinton doing her whole “I’m trying so hard to be liked by everyone that I end up being liked by no one” thing and reflect on what we have…cause it’s gonna be officially gone in January.
Obama has had his fair share of critics. Some more warranted than others. Maybe it’s just because Obama has been the only president I’ve really been alive to witness from beginning to end but I don’t think I have ever seen a President receive so much criticism from intolerant citizens as well as those in positions of power in the opposing political party. But still, Obama’s satisfaction rating as hit a three-year high of 51% this month1 and that is not undeserved.
Obama has done some (politically subjectively) great things for this country. And not to mention having a republican dominated Congress to contend with for a portion of his two terms. He achieved momentous Healthcare reform, oversaw the legalization of gay marriage, reopened lines of trade and communication with Cuba and struck down the environmentally nightmarish Keystone Pipeline.
He has managed some of the most volatile, controversial and devastating situations the country has seen in the past decade with a sense of calm, unwavering optimism and grace. The president is the one counted on to reassure the people when tragedy strikes. He is expected to be looking out for each and every citizen at once. When a mental case shoots up a church or an elementary school, or two brothers detonate explosives at a nationally televised event, it is to the president that the citizens look to for answers.
And this, I think, is one of the truest tests of a leader, how they handle situations that not only unearth political conflicts, but social and human ones as well. Obama was not in some public-figure-stratosphere above the tragedies and unaffected; the genuine empathy exuded in his speeches was tangible. The eloquence of President Obama will be sincerely missed. It will be at least another four years before we have another president capable of this kind of authentic reassurance.
Maybe the public is starting to notice this, finally having a mark of comparison to hold Obama’s grace and patience and honesty to in the form of this year’s race. It’s visible in his hiked satisfaction rating.
And we as voters and purveyors and citizens can only hope we’re not stuck with a sense of nostalgic yearning for a soon-to-be former president after it’s all said and done, votes counted and candidate sworn in come January.
1Collinson, Stephen. “Obama’s Long Goodbye.” CNN. Cable News Network, 23 Apr. 2016. Web.