It is easy, now in the beginning of what will be a long, ugly and historically expensive fight to be the next President of America, to romanticize the past.
To remember how hopeful, how enthusiastic, how downright excited millions of us were eight years ago at this time, when a totally new kind of President, a different kind of person than we’d ever campaigned for or tried to get elected, actually shocked the world and got the job.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Barack Obama in the past few weeks, about how he has restored decency and honor to the White House, how after consecutive presidencies marred by blow jobs and death-causing lies and stupidity, he has simply kept his head down and against more dug-in opposition than any President has faced, done a damn good job.
He will be greatly missed, even by those of us who got mad at him sometimes for not accomplishing everything. Two things over the past week made me realize just how terrific a man we’ve had as President really is.
The biggest nostalgia moment for me came when reading and watching Obama’s mesmerizing commencement speech at Howard University last Saturday (it’s embedded above; click here if you just want to read it.) It was an astounding, uplifting, powerful speech, one I think was maybe his best since the 2008 campaign. It was honest and challenging; soaring and grounded in humility all at the same time.
The part that struck particularly for me, as a liberal who has seen freedom of speech suddenly become optional at many college, was this passage:
So don’t try to shut folks out, don’t try to shut them down, no matter how much you might disagree with them. There’s been a trend around the country of trying to get colleges to disinvite speakers with a different point of view, or disrupt a politician’s rally. Don’t do that — no matter how ridiculous or offensive you might find the things that come out of their mouths. Because as my grandmother used to tell me, every time a fool speaks, they are just advertising their own ignorance. Let them talk. Let them talk. If you don’t, you just make them a victim, and then they can avoid accountability.
Exactly. Let the fools speak, then ignore and refute.
It’s a sensational speech, one that moved me to Tweet at Jon Favreau (not the actor, the Obama speechwriter) Saturday night after reading it and asking if Obama wrote it.
Because Twitter is awesome and you have access to people like Favreau who sometimes are nice, he replied that he heard Obama had ” quite a bit to do with it.”
Not surprised. I’m also not surprised by this super-cute video. The President came to Flint last week to discuss the indefensible water situation there, and 8-year-old Amariyanna Copeny was there to greet him. She wrote Obama a letter asking him to come visit, so she is “credited” with helping get him to Michigan.
When they met, well, this happened.
I’m really going to miss this guy. And I’m not alone.
**Finally today, I haven’t been writing much about the best show on TV, “The Americans” this season because we’re usually a few days late watching it, but it has been as incredible as ever (Tangent: My head is still spinning from watching the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas movie “Confirmation” this week and seeing Poor Martha from “The Americans” playing Thomas’ wife in the flick. Martha, how could you go from Clark to Clarence Thomas???) .
Anyway, as fabulous as “The Americans” is, this true story about a real American couple whose teenaged kids one day discovered their parents were Russian spies is mind-blowing. Donald Heathfield and Tracy Foley lived a normal life, so everyone thought, until in 2010 when the FBI showed up.
Tim and Alex Foley tell the story of how their parents’ double-lives were revealed in exacting detail. Truly a fascinating read.
Though I think the tale Henry Jennings from “The Americans” will one day tell a psychiatrist might top it.