A Brief Farewell to President Obama
I remember when people hated Ronald Reagan. Not just Ronald Reagan the politician—Ronald Reagan, the man. Oddly, I never saw hatred in Ronald Reagan. Anger, yes. Hatred, no. It took me a while to understand it, but I eventually realized that some couldn’t easily separate a person’s politics from the person. I struggle with it myself. In the case of a totalitarian dictator, that’s the right stance. However, in America, it can be different. Today we’ll see the last full day of President Obama, and many will mourn the loss of their politically left-leaning champion while some will rejoice as the man they hate leaves the White House. For me, my feelings are oddly mixed, yet quite lucid.
As a little boy growing up in east Macon, Georgia in the 60s and 70s, baseball as I knew it in those days reflected America, and I came to attribute much of our nation’s maturity and progress in racial issues to Jackie Robinson. What that man did was nothing short of heroic, patriotic, and selfless sacrifice that few can identify with. Others preceded him and others followed, but through my eyes as a little boy and through my love for the game of baseball and its history, some of my earliest lessons about America and righteous causes came from Jackie Robinson. If you’ve never read in-depth stories about that man, what he endured and what was expected of him on behalf of an entire race of people, you should. Because they aren’t stories about baseball—they’re stories about us, about America, and about a man who risked his family and sacrificed part of himself for the greater good of all of us, even though many of us hated him at the time.
When President Obama took office the first person I thought of was Jackie Robinson. The reason being, I realized President Obama, just like Jackie, would be doing something that could never be repeated. For Jackie, it was being the first black to play Major League baseball and integrate not only America’s pastime, but also our country. For President Obama, it was being the first black to sit in the White House as the president of our nation and the leader of the free world. In and of itself, that demanded a demeanor, a reservation, a patience, and a level of tone-deafness that only Jackie Robinson could relate to. For those reasons alone, both men have my respect.
Politically, I could count on one hand the number of policies and political positions on which I could find agreement with President Obama. However, as I understand him, he is a good and decent husband and father, and these are qualities that rank high in my life. And while I look forward to doing my part to changing or reversing some of his energy policies—policies that I personally believe are disconnected from the realities of the world as it is—I understand that this has been said and believed about the policies of every president before him. And it will be said about every president after him. One more reason why I’ve learned to try and separate the politician from the person.
Politically, I couldn’t be more opposite to President Obama—but I never hated him. That’s something, thankfully, I learned from Jackie Robinson and Ronald Reagan.
Farewell, Mr. President.