Tuesday, January 10, 2017

THE LESSONS I LEARNED FROM PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA


Thank you, Mr. President! Thank you for the examples you set as our President in so many ways. We will miss you.

We watched our President's last speech to the nation this evening, and as seen on social media, we were not alone. I don't want to dwell on the sadness so many of us feel as this man and his family leave our White House. Instead, I want to talk about the message he left us, not only in his farewell speech, but in the story of his presidency.

I don't know many people who think Obama is/was a terrible President; in fact, I can only think of three. That fact goes directly to a point our President made in his speech, that we each tend to keep within our own bubbles in terms of the people we know, the news we select to read and watch, the opinions we hold. The President instructed us not to only talk with people of different opinions on social media, but to go out and meet them and talk to them in person. That sounds like a good idea, and a daunting assignment.

You see, I know that there is no way I would ever change the minds of the people I know who think President Obama is/was a bad president, and there is certainly no way they would change my mind. So what's the point of talking? Why not simply argue on Facebook and Twitter, maybe throw out some insults, get pissed off and use nasty words; after all, we are hiding behind the screen and can't be seen. But that's his point, having a conversation on social media is not having a conversation. And we truly need more conversation and less yelling in this country (and the world).

So OK, I will try to find situations in which I can sit together with people who have different opinions and have a conversation. I won't try to change their minds; I will try to listen and understand.

There is something even more important my President told me this evening. He schooled me, once again, on the process and the institutions of American democracy. And I think we all need a refresher course on this topic. Democracy is not a straight line between points a and b. It is a squiggly line that goes all over the place, sometimes in the direction I like, sometimes not. But if everything in our political lives only went my way, it would be a dictatorship, with me in charge, And if you're lucky, I'd be the benevolent type!

Everyone in my political and social bubble is feeling bereft right now. We are feeling and acting like losers, but it doesn't feel the same as the other recent times we lost. This one is different, and we think it is different because of the personality of the man who won and the ugliness he condoned, and even encouraged. We can feel the doom approaching; we can see the pieces of democracy going the wrong way - not our way - being put in place at a terrifying pace. It appears that the people being appointed to positions of power are being placed there for the purpose of tearing down, not building up. And this scares us.

But our President told us that this is the way democracy works, and I believe him because he is correct. America will survive this new period of American politics, but it won't be the same America it is today. That is how history works. Nothing stays static; change happens. But he warned us, very clearly, that in order to come out the other end of the tunnel we are rapidly approaching, we all need to participate. He chided us for our dismal record of voter turnout for a modern country, and he was correct. He told us to get on our feet and get politically active, and he was correct. After all, he taught us, democracy isn't a thing, democracy is us. We are the citizens of democracy, and the squiggly line of democracy is guided by citizens.

So we need to stop acting like losers and start acting like winners. As our beloved First Lady kept telling us, when they go low, we go high!

We are not losing President Obama; he will be in our lives for many years to come. I expect him, actually, I count on him to continue to lead by example, no longer as President of the United States, but as a citizen of American democracy. So I won't say goodby to my President, I will simply say, "Good night, Mr. President. We'll be seeing you. And yes, we will!!"

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