I watched and listened to our president’s press conference yesterday. For an hour and twenty-seven minutes (a record for him), he stood, often leaning on his elbow in that I’m only-talking- to-you stance. Barely hiding his fatigue, he laid out his thoughts, his regrets, his justifications, his strategies and not-so-subtle messages, to the president-elect.
I am/ have been/always will be grateful for president Obama’s dignity, intelligence, wit and compassion. Marv and I sat riveted— this press conference, after all, was reported to be his last. He was coherent and specific, detailed and ironic, witty and yes, sad, as he spoke of his term ending in 30 plus days. He noted, in particular, how sad he felt as he posed for a last picture with the U.S. Marine Military Band. His candor was refreshing; as president, he could not show tears in front of the Marines.
Obama is almost a decade younger than my own son, but now looks years older, the weight of so many decisions especially as he spoke of his legacy— what he faced when he entered the office, what accomplishments he leaves for his successor. I wondered if he felt dread the way I do, that all he has worked for, all he has achieved could be dismantled, brick by brick, by people with opposite values.
I came away oddly calm, hopeful with the thought that this steady and steadfast man, once out of office, rested, settled in a new home, the mantel and obligation of the presidency behind him, might continue to lead, to offer his opinion and ideas for maintaining our democracy.
As Obama prepares to leave, we enter the week of December 19th, when two events— the Electoral College vote and the winter solstice, the day with the fewest daylight hours— converge. In my present location near Boston, Massachusetts, the winter solstice is on December 21st at 5:44 a.m. On December 22nd, the light, imperceptibly, will begin to shift. Six weeks out, those of us in the Northeast will note a difference by day’s end.
Unlike the gradual return of light over the next six months, I cannot predict the future regarding our president-elect or the effect of his new cabinet on our country. Post election, in a comment on Facebook’s Pantsuit Nation site, a woman wrote that she had been on a conference call with President Obama. Thanking the group for their tireless effort during Hillary’s campaign, he promised that after he and Michelle had a few weeks rest, he would re-engage. “I’m still fired up,” he said.
I am grateful for hope that those now in office who, to the core, honor and live out our democratic values, will continue to lead in whatever way they can. On this day, 24 hours before the Electoral College vote, 3 days before the winter solstice, I am grateful for the promise of evolving light through the next presidential season.
I also noticed, and was startled by Obama’s dramatic facial change in his 8 years in office. Seeing the 2 photos of him, one when he began and the current one as he leaves, was humbling.
I only heard a small portion of his talk. I’ll find it on YouTube
Nice writing. As Churchill said “never give up” hope.
This is/has been a difficult transition, I suspect for him as well, for us! In an NPR interview I read that he is considering role for himself in rebuilding the Democratic Party as a coach to the younger generation. He aspires to develop a whole new generation of talent! Yes, Hope!!
I was moved by your comments about Obama’s news conference. He is truly a decent, dignified and principled man. I also appreciated and am grateful for the way you phrased the possibility of his legacy being destroyed by others with different values. As I grapple with the change in government brought about by my fellow Americans some of whose values I do not share I have to remember that is the price of democracy.
This piece was one of your best.
I so appreciate your comment, Hy, and yes, I, too, must remember this is the price of democracy.
One can only hope!
Indeed… as well as to work with like-minded citizens to maintain our democratic values.
What really caught me in this blog piece was the writer’s juxtaposition of two opposite experiences–her sadness at the departure of our current light-shedding president, and her joy at the reassuring near-arrival of the winter solstice, certain to bring increased light. And I liked what felt like an implied question–will there be enough light, in the days of new leadership?
Rosemary, as always, I am grateful for your thoughtful commentary on my words. When I wrote the piece, the analogy to the Solstice seems right. A day after, I am feeling a little more hopeful as I listened to indefatigable Bernie on Tom Ashbrook this morning. His mantra, to organize, resist through rallies and protest marches, to get the parties to pay attention. The more light, the more we can see and take in the details…
Thanks for your comment, Liza.
Enjoyed the expression of your thinking and it gives me a bit of hope. Especially love the comparison of increasing daylight to, hopefully ,the coming of political future positive actions
Yes, the converge of the two themes was serendipitous: I find hope in the knowledge that the lengthening of light is presently imperceptible but nonetheless present.
Thank you Faye. You remind us that hope does not go out of fashion, regardless of who is parading wrongheaded values at #1600. I wish for President Obama and his family a well deserved rest and then the energy and resolve that will be required to make sure his hard work was not in vain.
Joan, thank you— so well stated.