I have a friend who sends me emails on a regular basis. For the most part, they are forwarded messages from some anonymous writer who is obviously a paranoidial Republican. Most of the emails are Ad Hominem attacks on President Obama. Some are rather vicious; none are complimentary. To this day I really do not understand why some people have such negative feelings toward President Obama. While I will be the first to admit that he has not been perfect, considering the circumstances he inherited and has had to deal with since becoming president, I think he has done a pretty damn good job. Especially considering that from the very beginning of his presidency, Republicans have tried to sabotage him at every turn.
Because people have forgotten just how bad things were when he was elected and because too many of those same people had unrealistic expectations as to what he could actually do without a Congress willing to help him do it, and because the conservative media did such a great job at filling our means of communication with so much false information about him that most people could not decipher fact from fiction, I thought that I would try to clear the air of some of the false information about the president and list some reasons why I am thankful that Barack Obama is our Commander-in-Chief. So here goes.
I am thankful Barack Obama is President. . .
- Because. . . he supported and signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act, legislation that reinstates prior law and makes clear that pay discrimination claims on the basis of sex, race, national origin, age, religion and disability “accrue” whenever an employee receives a discriminatory paycheck, as well as when a discriminatory pay decision or practice is adopted, when a person becomes subject to the decision or practice, or when a person is otherwise affected by the decision or practice.
- Because. . . he sees sending in large numbers of American ground troops into another war – a war that would almost certainly result in heavy casualties – is a last resort, not the first option as many Republicans seem to advocate.
- Because. . . he signed the Affordable Care Act into law, millions of Americans have gained health insurance who would have otherwise gone without.
- Because. . . he proposed and Congress passed a financial stimulus package in 2009 – with almost no support from the Republican party – that stopped the economy from spiraling even further out of control, helped save the American automobile industry, and made it possible to avoid another Great Depression.
- Because. . . he still managed to reduce budget deficits by over $1 trillion since he was elected, the largest deficit reduction since World War II despite all of the problems he faced entering office following the catastrophic Bush presidency. Continuous private-sector job growth has occurred every single month since March of 2010, creating well over twelve million jobs and the current unemployment rate is five percent, lower than at any time during Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
- Because. . . he has out-performed President Reagan on jobs, growth and investing no matter what propaganda Republicans try to perpetuate about him.
- Because. . . he has supported lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights, the LGBT community has progressed further during his administration than under any other president in United States history, as proud gay Americans are now serving their country without fear of being kicked out of the military for their sexual orientation, and same-sex marriage is now legal in the entire United States.
- Because. . . he understands that climate change is a real and present danger to planet Earth, he has proposed The Clean Power Plan that sets achievable standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by thirty-two percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
- Because. . . he knows that we cannot call ourselves the greatest nation on Earth if we turn our back on thousands of desperate women and children fleeing a terrorist group that wants to slaughter them.
- Because. . . he knows that the greatness of the United States is built on hope, optimism and courage – not on fear, hate and anger.
While all the above are reasons enough for my being pleased that Barack Obama is our president, the following is my number one reason because it reveals what I consider to be a necessary quality in any human being, and especially, in a president of the United States.
I find this story highly apropos, especially in the wake of the senseless tragedy last week at San Bernardino in which fourteen people were killed and twenty-one were wounded. The account comes from Joshua Dubois, the former head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in the Executive Office of the President of the United States. Dubois writes the following in his book, The President’s Devotional: The Daily Readings That Inspired President Obama, a book of 365 daily lessons containing spiritual and moral guidance appropriate for both gifted world leaders such as President Obama and ordinary people, such as you and me.
Dubois recounts the Sunday after the heinous shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, when Adam Lanza fatally shot twenty school children and six adult staff members. Dubois had received word the day before that the President wanted to meet with the families of the victims. What happened that day was done quietly. There were no fanfares. No political photo-ops. No headlines. Just the President and those grieving families, and. . . well, I’ll let Dubois tell the story:
“I left early to help the advance team – the hardworking folks who handle logistics for every event – set things up, and I arrived at the local high school where the meetings and memorial service would take place. We prepared seven or eight classrooms for the families of the slain children and teachers, two or three families to a classroom, placing water and tissues and snacks in each one. Honestly, we didn’t know how to prepare; it was the best we could think of.
“The families came in and gathered together, room by room. Many struggled to offer a weak smile when we whispered, ‘The president will be here soon.’ A few were visibly angry – so understandable that it barely needs to be said – and were looking for someone, anyone, to blame. Mostly they sat in silence.
“I went downstairs to greet President Obama when he arrived, and I provided an overview of the situation. “Two families per classroom . . . The first is . . . and their child was . . . The second is . . . and their child was . . . We’ll tell you the rest as you go.”
“The president took a deep breath and steeled himself, and went into the first classroom. And what happened next I’ll never forget.
“Person after person received an engulfing hug from our commander in chief. He’d say, “Tell me about your son. . . . Tell me about your daughter,” and then hold pictures of the lost beloved as their parents described favorite foods, television shows, and the sound of their laughter. For the younger siblings of those who had passed away – many of them two, three, or four years old, too young to understand it all – the president would grab them and toss them, laughing, up into the air, and then hand them a box of White House M&M’s, which were always kept close at hand. In each room, I saw his eyes water, but he did not break.
“And then the entire scene would repeat – for hours. Over and over and over again, through well over a hundred relatives of the fallen, each one equally broken, wrecked by the loss. After each classroom, we would go back into those fluorescent hallways and walk through the names of the coming families, and then the president would dive back in, like a soldier returning to a tour of duty in a worthy but wearing war. We spent what felt like a lifetime in those classrooms, and every single person received the same tender treatment. The same hugs. The same looks, directly in their eyes. The same sincere offer of support and prayer.
“The staff did the preparation work, but the comfort and healing were all on President Obama. I remember worrying about the toll it was taking on him. And of course, even a president’s comfort was woefully inadequate for these families in the face of this particularly unspeakable loss. But it became some small measure of love, on a weekend when evil reigned.”
What I like best about this story is that President Obama has never spoken publicly about those meetings. Yes, he addressed the shooting in Newtown and gun violence in general in a subsequent speech, but he did not speak of those private gatherings. In fact, reports indicate that he was nearly silent on Air Force One as he returned to Washington that day, and has said very little about his time with these families since. It must have been one of the defining moments of his presidency: quiet hours in solemn classrooms, extending as much healing as was in his power to extend. But he kept it to himself – never seeking to teach a lesson based on those mournful conversations, or opening them up to public view. Sometimes, the holiest things, the most painful and important and cherished things are done in secret. They are not for public consumption and display, but as acts of service to others.
President Bill Clinton was fond of saying, “I feel your pain.” President Obama does not need to say it; he shows it. President George W. Bush called himself a “compassionate conservative.” President Obama, while he never will be labeled a conservative, has always worn the mantle of compassion. And compassion is the operative word for me. How many more families will the President have to show his compassion for and give his comfort and consolation to before Congress does something about America’s mass-shooting problem? In case you do not remember, it was mostly Republicans who disgustingly thwarted ninety percent of public opinion and struck down gun control laws after Sandy Hook. Since Sandy Hook, there have been at least 1,029 mass shootings, killing some 1,300 people.
As I said earlier, I know President Obama is far from perfect, but considering the circumstances he inherited and the blatant Republican obstruction with which he has had to deal, I think he has done a damn good job. And I will take his compassion anytime over any of his Republican wannabes!