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.