On a day like today, when our democracy is teetering on an uncertain cliff and despair is the mood for so many, I wanted to try and hold on to some positivity.
Because as depressing as I find today’s events to be, I have to try and find the learning moment for my girls. They will be watching the swearing-in ceremony this morning — at least Alexia will. When she asked me about it, I told her that the transition of power is a key part of the process of democracy. I told her I expect her to watch the ceremony with her classmates and be respectful. No booing, no thumbs down. When she asked why, I told her it’s because accepting the results of our elections, whether you agree or not, is part of what makes America great. Because how one accepts defeat says as much about a person as how they celebrate victory.
I’ve written before about how much Alexia likes President Obama. This time I wanted to write a Thank You note to a president who shouldered an unimaginable burden — even for a President — and who did it for eight years with class, grace and dignity. So Thank you, Mr. President, for among other things:
Understanding that Love Trumps All. By supporting marriage equality, you helped ensure same-sex couples could enjoy the same rights everyone else has.
For essentially saving the American auto industry. Oh, and for also helping to end the Great Recession and creating millions of new jobs.
For killing Osama Bin Laden.
For doing what no other president before you had attempted to do — create a more equitable health care system for millions of Americans who otherwise couldn’t afford decent health care coverage. Was the ACA perfect? Of course not. It was deeply flawed, but it was something. For millions of Americans, it gave them a blanket of protection. And just as important, Obama tried. And for that, he ultimately succeeded.
You can read more about what he accomplished during his eight years in office here. You may not like what he did, but there is no debating he was able to take significant actions, both economic and socially, during his two terms.
But what I really want to say ‘Thank You’ for most of all is for the way he carried himself while in office. He was not a perfect president; there is no such thing. Washington is a city and system of compromise, and no one person can effect change on his or her own. What President Obama did was survive intense scrutiny and did so with unparalleled dignity. Look at the personal, hateful attacks he endured while in office. The racist birther movement being just one horrific example. But when they went low, he went high.
Obama, as much as any president in recent history, understood that the presidency isn’t so much a real job. It’s an ideal, a beacon for other Americans to look to and strive to reach.
Being president is about setting a standard for others to follow and emulate. And with it comes immense power that must be handled with great responsibility. Our president shouldn’t fall victim to petty, knee-jerk reactions. He or she should be above that, able to see beyond the immediate and to the future. That person needs to realize the importance any word, tweet, text or gesture a President makes carries with it massive ramifications.
Whether you voted for him or not, there is no way any sane-thinking person could have ever doubted Barack Obama’s ability to see the big picture. Or his grace under pressure. Because he understood what being President truly meant. I can’t help thinking of one of my favorite Bruce Springsteen lyrics, from “Growin Up“:
” I strolled all alone into a fallout zone, and came out with my soul untouched.”
Thank you, President Obama.