The United States of America is now a little over a month away from Day One of its tangoed, toupee’d era under the man known as “The Donald”.
Whether Donald Trump performs a volte-face on his more controversial pledges to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country, build that “wall” on the border with Mexico and deport millions of illegal immigrants remains to be established. How good or bad he will be as leader of the free world is to be revealed. One thing is more clear- 20 January 2017 will be the day world leadership becomes poorer for the loss of outgoing President Barack Obama.
Obama’s tenure will be dissected further in the years to come. Supporters regard him as a President who successfully navigated America through treacherous economic waters, engineered historic healthcare reforms and imbued the nation with a welcome dose of humility. Detractors bemoan his presidency as a lost near-decade where America lost its influence and more painfully, its swagger in the world. They regard Obama as ineffectual, indecisive and lacking in the political smarts necessary to effect the changes he promised to bring on a sweeping tidal wave of hope in 2008. Whatever your opinion and valid arguments exist on both sides, few can deny Obama is that rarity we wish more ubiquitous- an honourable, honest, thoughtful politician who spoke and acted from the heart in the interests of the country he dearly loves.
Current anodyne political debate in the UK, led by two utterly mediocre public speakers in Theresa “Brexit means Brexit” May and Jeremy “I have here a question from..” Corbyn is enough to make you weep with unrestrainable dismay. This is sadly a political period bereft of public speakers with the capacity to articulate exciting ideas, to rouse people so they forget the dark today and dream of a brighter and better tomorrow. Trump may be an amusing, bombastic public speaker, but his speeches linger predominantly for their offence and vacuity. In contrast, Obama boats an embarrassment of riches on the public speaking front, with his evangelical rhetorical flow gripping its subjects in a frenzied religious fervour. Boston 2004, Chicago 2008 & 2012 and Selma 2015 are just a few highlights. There is frankly no world figure in his class.
His ability to break ground
Under Obama’s premiership, America is less of a hated, arrogant, warmongering beast wantonly blazing a trail of destruction around the world in the name of self-interest. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) has become a reality giving millions of American citizens health insurance previously out of reach. Over 50 years of fraught relations with Cuba have been thawed, a scenario considered utterly unthinkable only a few years ago. Even more astonishing in 15 years of foreign policy dominated by the struggle against Islamist terrorism, is the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action led by America, which has comprehensively checked Iran’s nuclear program. Unsatisfied with breaking one of the loftiest of glass ceilings by becoming the first American President of African descent, Obama has accomplished tangible ground-breaking achievements.
His Biden bromance
A sharp shot of levity yes, but if you missed those brilliant memes last month then where on earth were you?! The Barack Obama-Joe Biden bromance, featuring White House jogging, visits to ice-cream parlours, hugs, smiles and friendship bracelets is the stuff of televisual fantasy. Except it is very real. The pair formed a close President-Vice President axis and a genuinely closer friendship over 8 years of political partnership. The shady world of politics, with its dark arts and skulduggery, often leave one feeling demoralised. Through difficult times, Obama and Biden have shown that decent, capable people can climb the greasiest of poles to serve their country with distinction at the highest level and whilst at it, become great friends too.