I saw my president and his family land at the Cuban airport Sunday night and step off onto Cuban soil. Even the need for umbrellas, because of the driving rain, did not blur my television view.
I saw my president, Barack Obama, last week Wednesday step before the cameras in the Rose Garden at the White House and officially name Merrick Garland as a Supreme Court nominee.
I saw my president and the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, hold a joint news conference at the White House the Thursday before, March 10the.
Three times in eleven days. Almost amazing because most every television broadcast for months and months has begun with words and pictures of potential presidents, not the president we have now. I watched the Obama-Trudeau joint news conference with my granddaughter, Jennaya, age 11, who was at home recovering from surgery. She watched the entire broadcast with great interest.
Disappointed to see that the evening news covered only 30 seconds (what Obama had to say about a presidential candidate), Jennaya decided to write a story about the entire news conference on what her president and the prime minister had said. She included a sentence: “The whole news conference was a treat considering usually the media is all about Trump!”
Some might say that President Obama may be able to do more during these final months of his presidency without being under the constant eye of the people of the United States. But I, for one, would like to see him. And hear him and learn from him.
Some commentators have been calling Obama a lame duck president since the day after he won the election for his second term in office. (Only now do reporters use that term in the more accurate narrow sense to refer to the days after November 2016 before the inauguration of the next president in January 2017—raising the possibility of the Republicans in the Senate confirming Judge Garland’s nomination at the last minute.) As for Obama? No lame duck is he!
Of course he has not been able to accomplish all he or we would have hoped. However, Barack Obama has been leading consistently in a way that has made it a joy for me to not only watch but also to be engaged in this participatory democracy. The words he used to describe Judge Garland might well be words to describe President Obama himself: a man of “decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness and excellence.”
Young Jennaya’s news story on watching President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau address reporters’ questions together said: “Reporters from both countries asked questions. They spoke in both French and English. Children in Canada learn both languages. The men spoke of friendly relationships between the two countries and the importance of a strong partnership. There is a long border between the United States and Canada. They talked about the importance of working together on Climate Change issues and being leaders in the world on this use. They stressed being good neighbors with each other and helping countries in the world all be good neighbors.”
My husband and I watched President Obama land in Cuba. (Burton and I had been married less than two months when the Cuban Missile Crisis in the fall of 1962 made us extraordinarily fearful for two weeks if we would wake up the next morning.) We are not unaware of the work it takes to have good neighborly relationships, particularly with huge power differentials. There are risks. There always are risks. Human rights. Embargos. My responsibility as a columnist and as a professor is to dig deep, to critique, and to help people understand issues. But for now, I give thanks that President Obama is my—our—president. He has been ignored, ridiculed, derided, vilified, and threatened. However, every time I have heard him speak, in news conferences, speeches, or when giving words of comfort to families of victims of gun violence, I have been appreciative and inspired.
In spite of what he has and will endure, he is a man of diligence, collaboration, and reconciliation. I have seen that. I want to see him more.