Today, however, I want to thank the man who will soon be leaving office and returning to private life: President Barack Obama. With all the pessimism that is going on in the current election, perhaps I can add a small dose of optimism (odd coming from a pessimist).
|President Barack Obama|
I was 17 and unable to vote when President Obama was elected November 4, 2008. That election was memorable for several reasons. While most of my friends were hoping that then Senator Obama would be elected, I was supporting Senator John McCain. Most of my black friends called me a disgrace to the black race for not supporting Senator Obama, even though I often pointed out that they had little knowledge of his policy proposals and had not done their homework. Further, even though I did not ideologically agree with most of what Senator Obama was proposing, I always remember being impressed with the good man he was and how he handled the press. He was always thoughtful and kind, even when he was not allowed to finish a sentence without being interrupted.
Finally November 4th came and while in church at Vine-Life Christian Fellowship, my former pastor Robert L. Wilks, Jr. announced to the congregation that Senator Obama was now President-elect. The congregation (entirely black) erupted with cheers as though Jesus of Nazareth had returned to Earth. I sat there and thought about what it all meant. Upon arriving home and watching President-elect Obama give his victory speech, I remember seeing the tears in my grandmother's eyes and being grateful that she and my grandfather who had lived through the Civil Rights movement were able to see this momentous occasion. Only four years earlier I had asked my grandfather if he thought the United States would ever have a black president. His response had been "Not in my lifetime." I am sure that he had never been so happy to have been wrong.
After his inauguration, I wondered if President Obama would be as idealistic as when he had been a candidate. To my surprise and relief, he was far more pragmatic than idealistic. Two incidents point out to me that President Obama is more center-right than the socialist ideologue that the right (and myself at times) had portrayed him as. First, his views on healthcare. I had thought that if elected he would try to enact a single-payer system. Instead, he enacted Bob Dole's healthcare bill from the 90's, which is a market-based system. Second, I had thought that it was impractical to withdraw all troops from Iraq. President Obama rethought this and kept a significant number of troops there as he moved more troops into Afghanistan. In fact, if there is one theme that has characterized his presidency, it has been pragmatism over idealism, a trait those on the right highly value (or we used to anyway).
Do not get the impression that I am with President Obama on all of his ideas because that is not the case. I am highly disappointed in his continued use of torture, and in his reckless spending and constitutional overreach (such as trying to executive order amnesty). His calling conservatives his enemies has also annoyed me, considering that I have wished him nothing but the best during his time in office. And finally, his lack of admitting mistakes or lying about them has also been disheartening (Benghazi). However, overall I would give him a B for his time in office.
As citizens of the United States, we often underestimate what a burden the commander in chief bears on their shoulders. This job is a mostly thankless one, your side of the aisle often thinks you are not doing enough, the other side wishes that you did not exist. When anything bad happens, you are responsible, even if there was nothing you could do about it. Working with Congress is often difficult if not impossible. In addition to all this, President Obama has had to deal with an unprecedented amount of disrespect because he happens to be black. Some may say he hasn't, but what other president has been interrupted as much as he has in interviews, had governors literally get in his face pointing their fingers, been called a non-Christian, while also being called the most radical president in history when their is no evidence to support that claim? In spite of all of this, President Obama has remained calm, cheerful, and approached the job with vigor and vision. If no one on the right will say it, this man has done a good job during these eight years.
From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank President Obama for the service he has given these past 8 years, and given the options we have next Tuesday it is a shame that a third term is not an option. More important than being a good president, President Obama is a good man. I wish him all the best as he finishes his term and then returns to private life. Well done, Mr. President.