People are very quick to pronounce that something or other is “the end of an era.”
Friends say it all the time, when a buddy gets married, or when people go off to college and leave all their childhood friends behind. Sports commentators are the worst offenders, always declaring one team’s run of success “the end of an era” when it ends.
But as much as I hate that overused and hackneyed term, I gotta tell ya: This week really does feel like the end of an era. Barack Hussein Obama, a Hawaii-born mixed-race kid who was blessed with the kind of charisma we see once every 40-50 years in politics, is leaving his job as President of the United States.
And he did an outstanding job. You could go by the numbers and facts: Incredible economic growth, lowest unemployment (under 5 percent) in decades, two big election wins, passing universal health care, saving General Motors while killing Osama Bin Laden.
You could go by the less-tangible successes: How decent, how kind, how funny this man was; how he went eight years in the White House without a major scandal. How he signed a historic climate change agreement that finally, finally forces the world to take this problem seriously. How he gave us Michelle Obama, the coolest and smartest First Lady (not to mention, most beautiful) maybe ever.
Or you could go by what he didn’t do: Never stooped to the lowest levels of slime thrown at him from the right; never bemoaned his fate upon inheriting a catastrophic economic situation in 2009, never failed to blame himself at least partially when things didn’t go the way he or the Democrats.
No, he wasn’t perfect: He wasn’t the liberal hero many of us wanted/hoped he’d be; his Justice Dept. spent way too much time going after journalists who wouldn’t reveal their sources; he never had quite enough fire in his belly to fight down and dirty with the GOP, and he never did get around to making his administration as transparent as he claimed it would be.
But this man from Chicago, this “skinny kid with a funny name” accomplished some extraordinary things in this era of polarization and hate. He brought hope back. He showed African-Americans, and all Americans, what’s possible in a leader. He brought respect and grace and intelligence back to the White House, and tried his best to keep on being optimistic about America.
And when you contrast him with the next guy who’ll be in the Oval Office… let’s just say I’m already nostalgic for the last eight years.
Thank you, Barack Obama, for all that you have done for this country. You deserve a few months of sleep, the ability to play pick-up basketball whenever you want, and a rich and rewarding life outside Washington, D.C.
We will miss him greatly. Will.i.am, take us out…
**Next up, I laughed really, really hard at this TV guide-like synopsis of this week’s programming from a newspaper called the Scotland Herald.
It’s about a certain event happening in America on Friday. Bravo to whoever at the newspaper wrote this, for creativity.
**And finally today, let’s not forget that Joe Biden is leaving the stage this week, too. He’s been an excellent vice-president, it appears, pushing Obama to the left on some issues and continuing to use his status for good. He has suffered many tragedies over the years, including of course losing his son Beau in 2015, but he has always maintained his humor and his passion.
I was thinking, watching that incredible speech he gave when Obama surprised Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom the other day, how much Biden’s reputation in the public eye has changed in eight years. In 2008, he was “Crazy Uncle Joe” of the Senate, the proud Delawarean who made verbal gaffes, wasn’t really taken seriously as a Presidential candidate both times he ran, and wasn’t considered by most people a major political figure.
Now look at him: Most Democrats think he would’ve beaten Trump, he’s considered a statesman and a great partner to Obama; a guy who has been completely at ease in his own skin the last eight years, after often seeming like someone trying to impress.
There’s talk about Biden 2020, but I think he’s done. He’s going out on top, and man, what a great public speaker he turned out to be.