I have taken a lot of heat from conservatives at this blog and elsewhere for saying nice things about Barack Obama. (Some of you can stop reading now, because I am about to do it again!). I realize that some of the readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home have serious differences with the current President of the United States. I appreciate those differences and I hope that my social media outreach has, for the most part, given them due consideration. I have my disagreements as well. But over the last eight years I have had nothing but respect for this man and the way he has handled the office of the presidency.
A couple of months ago I was browsing the shelves at Byron Borger’s wonderful Hearts and Minds Bookstore and saw a copy of Michael Eric Dyson’s latest book The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America. I bought it and read it. Dyson’s book opened my eyes to the day-to-day struggles Obama has faced as America’s first black president. I recommend it. You will probably not agree with everything Dyson has to say about Obama or race in America, but you will definitely come away from the book with an appreciation for Obama’s difficult job.
I am going to miss the way Obama, an intellectual with a God-given gift for oratory, frames the issues facing our country today. Though I may not always give him a hearty “Amen,” more often than not his nuanced approach to public matters, his commitment to civic humanism, his use of scripture, and his steely resolve in the face of criticism makes me think harder about how to be a responsible American citizen. Though politics is a nasty business, and Obama has been more than willing to make some of the moral compromises necessary to engage in such a business, his character–perhaps guided by his deep Christian faith–has been better than most. And Obama’s legacy in this area will only grow stronger when we compare him to our next president.
I thus really appreciated Timothy Egan’s piece today at The New York Times: “With Obama. the Personal is Presidential.”
Here is a taste:
We always knew he could keep his head when others were losing theirs and blaming him, knew it from the 2008 financial crisis and on to the hard, lasting words he spoke at Tuesday’s memorial for the slain police officers in Dallas.
What we didn’t know, what could not be predicted of one so young and new to the impossible task of living round-the-clock under the glare of the entire world, was how Barack Obama would hold up as a father, a husband, a man.
No matter what you think of Obama the executive branch, it’s hard to argue that Obama the human being has been anything less than a model of class and dignity. If, as was often said about black pioneers in sports, you had to be twice as good to succeed, Obama’s personal behavior has set a standard few presidents have ever reached.
You see him singing happy birthday to his daughter Malia, on the day she turned 18 this past Fourth of July, or coaching his daughter Sasha at hoops, and you see his ambition, still, to be “the father I never had.”
You see him teasing, bantering or dancing with his wife of nearly a quarter-century. And while no outsider can know what goes on inside another’s marriage, you can’t help feeling some of the joy of that union. They still finish each other’s sentences.
It’s not fair to give him his due as a person, his high grade for character, for being scandal-free in his private life, just because a potential successor has no character, no class, and breaches a new wall of civility every time he opens his mouth. If Obama had bragged about infidelities and the size of his genitals, if Obama had talked about wanting to date his own daughter and reduced women to a number on a hotness scale, it would be about race. But when Donald Trump says such things, nobody ties it to his being white, nor should they. Trump is a singular kind of vulgarian.
Read the entire piece here.