Sunday, 15 January 2017

Farewell Obama.

Goodbye Obama. I recall you once said this as the driving legacy of your Presidency: "Each of us leaders, each nation, can choose to reject those who appeal to our worst impulses and embrace those who appeal to our best."
The keywords in that foundational statement are "choose" and "our worst and best impulses". It is after all about us, our participation, that makes the difference. It is about the power of making right choices, daring to make it against all odds, and leaving a mark, however insignificant it may appear to us, that truly count.
I watched your farewell speech last night online, in which you called for unity, solidarity and loyalty to the cause of democracy, whatever the costs, and I can't say that I was not deeply inspired.
Well, a speech is nevertheless a speech, and yes we can and yes we did were all said and done. We all know that the inaugural and the farewell speeches are supposed to rile up the crowd, celebrate your achievements and give the people hope. Words are after all words.
But even in your failings, or where you fell short, that is, the drone attacks, the terrorism fear at home, the chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan, the rising inequality, and the nuclear and climate issues worldwide, you nevertheless made a true effort, that is, an earnest attempt with enduring hope, faith and passion.
For you, the road to Presidency hell eight years ago, with the worst of the economic crisis to confront, is not just paved with good intention. It is also paved with swift and decisive action.
In your speech, you reminded us this: "Yes, our progress has been uneven. The work of democracy has always been hard, contentious and sometimes bloody. For every two steps forward, it feels we take one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some."
Most of all, when others took the low road, you went high. You refused to engage in gutter politics. You said this: "We weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character aren't willing to enter public service; so coarse with rancour that Americans with whom we disagree are not just misguided, but somehow malevolent."
Then, one defining moment is that you firmly and instinctively addressed the "boos" in your speech and not encouraged them. When you said that in 10 days, "the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy" - with boos all around - you raised your finger, shook it and your head, and continued, "the peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected president to the next...I am committed to President-elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me."
Lesson? What I've learned from your speech and your Presidency, Mr Obama, is this:-
Democracy is never defined by one. Neither can it be destroyed by one. If it is essentially the government by the people, for the people and with the people, then it is either defined or destroyed by all, the collective mass, through words or deeds, action or inaction, conduct or omission, design or apathy, or both.
Wise and respected leaders have come and go, misguided and malevolent ones have stormed in and out, via the honored and dishonored democratic process, yet they alone only set the stage for actors like us, the masses, to either play out their script, whether for good or for bad, whether in full or in part.
There will thus be no drama of progress or digress, peace or war, unity or chaos, without the drama of actors all playing their roles assigned. We collectively make up democracy and not the other way round. For in democracy's stage, there are no non-actors; just actors playing out a non-actor's role.
The greatest power of democracy is not in an ideal enshrined in a parchment kept in an air-sealed glass cabinet and stored away in a public archive building.
Her greatest power is in the collective choices we all make when we come together in unity, hope and purpose to lift up the dreams, lives and family of the least among us in the society we live in. That is the best of the democratic ideals, that is, the united and consistent action of the people to improve the lives of all, regardless of race, language, status and religion.
Democracy is therefore at her worst when the opposite happens. That is, when the dreams, lives and family of the rich and powerful are lifted at the expense of everyone else. Make no mistake, democracy always involves an enduring sacrifice from self for the benefit of another, and not from another to the benefit of self.
So, Mr Obama, for the 8 years, you have given us your best, which you can humanly offer - warts and all. More importantly, you have shown us how to fight racial hatred not with racial hatred, but with tolerance and understanding. You have shown us how one administration can rally up the hope of the people to participate in a script that is not based on blind populism and rhetorical extremism, but on forward-moving, inclusive purpose to empower the people, fortify the spirit, and strengthen our democratic ideals.
And most of us, in your farewell speech to the nation, you did not forget those who have fought side by side by and with you. The most touching moment is when you pause with tears as you called out your wife and daughters, your vice president and his wife, and all your staff to express your lifetime gratitude.
You thanked them with all your heart. You said that there is no greater role you have been privileged to be a part of, including the Presidency, than to be a husband, a father, a friend and a citizen standing with, for and by the people.
Indeed, you will be missed. And alas, the spirit, ideals and legacy you leave behind will be hard to match.
So, goodbye Obama. Godspeed. God bless America. Cheerz.

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