This past Friday, on a literal split TV screen, I was again reminded of the virtual though perceptually painful whiplash I have been continually experiencing since that dreadful evening of November 8, 2016 when the United States Electoral College indicated that Donald Trump would soon take over the reins of government from Barack Obama.
Today former President Obama gave an inspirational speech at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as he was honored with an Ethics in Government award.
As Obama was speaking to the group of enthusiastic students and staff, Donald Trump called on his beleaguered attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, to smoke out the person or persons – whom Trump accused of being “a traitor” – who penned a scathing indictment of Trump’s management style, low intelligence, deranged character, and diminished cognition.
The juxtaposition could not have been more stark from A to Z, for a chasm the size of the ever-expanding universe would not fill the gap between Presidents 44 and 45. While Obama certainly manifests many flaws, these pale when placed side-by-side with Trump.
Obama ALERTED the world to the threats and dangers of “crude nationalism” and “white supremacy” presented in the guise of “popularism,” which feeds on people’s fears and prejudices resulting in the separation of people and nations from one another. Trump has empowered this fascist movement by instigating panics of “the other” in the electorate.
Obama embodies an AUDACITY of hope for a better, more inclusive country and world, one that comes closer to fulfilling our founding goal of ensuring liberty and justice for all, one that cherishes our diversity while truly exemplifying E Pluribus Unum. Trump’s methodology centers on dividing and conquering diverse groups to compete with one another for the limited and ever-diminishing crumbs of power and wealth as if it were a no-sum game.
Obama exemplifies a BRILLIANCE of intellect that guides his every decision and filters the noise and distraction in the cacophony of voices around him. “No Drama Obama” was followed by “All Drama All The Time” Trump who is ruled not by intellect, but, rather, by impulse.
Very apparent again today, Obama’s CHARM upon the university stage that often disarms even his most ardent skeptics once in his presence. Trump, on the other hand, has no charm since his modus is to metaphorically lift his fists ready for a fight as any bully would.
Obama shows a deep COMMITMENT to the most important of his priorities, his family, by never allowing his work to cloud his connections with loved ones. While Trump certainly seems to love his family, his womanizing and engorged libido plus his overarching quest for increasing power and treasure places his familial relationships in constant jeopardy.
Obama is DEDICATED to protecting the environment by working to save and sustain the Earth for current generations and those yet to come. Trump has no use for environmental regulations and has reversed most handed down by his predecessors. Trump is dedicated only to corporate profits – his own.
Obama manifests a DIGNITY in how he expresses and carries himself, even when others do not reciprocate in kind. Trump is as dignified and refined as a kick boxer fighting a combatant to the death in a toxic oily swamp.
Obama has genuine EMPATHY in reaching out to the marginalized, dispossessed, and scapegoated among us, and in attempting to bring them into the center of our society. Trump tramples on the bodies of the oppressed as his stepping stones to personal success and security.
While Obama suffered the headwinds of a Republican Congress, he showed FORTITUDE among the onslaught of obstructionism cascading like torrents from across the ever-widening aisle. Though Trump could coast in the tailwinds of a Republican Congress in advancing his agenda, by Tweeting and spouting his mouth about extraneous pettiness, he obstructs his own presidency.
Obama, in his GENTLENESS, is redefining the true gentleman in a world and a nation of increasing toxic hyper-masculinity manifested by the likes of Trump.
Obama consistently shows GRACE under tremendous pressure by those who have attempted to bring him down from the beginning of his tenure, and in the face of the incessant barrage of criticism and attacks on his humanity and his qualifications to hold the highest office in the land. Trump, on the other hand, shows only attack and rudeness while containing virtually no qualifications – background nor temperament – for the office.
Obama exhibited HEROISM in never giving up even in tough times when the hill he chose to climb appeared far in the distance – for example, affordable universal health care. Trump’s hills change from moment to moment as does his attention. His administration, while few, has scored some “successes” – a right-wing Supreme Court Justice and numerous judges in lower courts and tax reduction law for the rich – despite the Chief Executive.
Obama has the gift of HUMOR, a tendency never to take himself too seriously, a sense to roast himself when occasion calls for it, ability to apologize when he makes a mistake, while never gloating on his successes to a fault. Trump lacks and doesn’t understand humor, does not have the words “I’m sorry” in his mind’s library, takes credit for his successes as well as those for which he was not involved.
Through the trials of politics, Obama has maintained his INTEGRITY by never willing to sacrifice in exchange for mere material or political rewards. Trump shows as much integrity as a thief who robbed the poor of their meager savings.
Obama exhibits firm JUDGMENT honed by experience and perspective by keeping forever on course and attentive, preventing him from swerving into potentially dangerous political terrain. Trump has judgement, which is often bad and potentially dangerous to himself, his family, the nation, and the community of nations,
Obama reveals a KINDNESS that comes forth in his treatment of the people he meets, especially when he is in the company of the youngest among us. Trump sucks up the energy and oxygen where ever he ventures, leaving only a bottomless narcissistic desperation to be seen and heard.
Obama displays a LOVE for people, love for a country that has not yet lived up to its potential, love of service, love of progressive advancement, and evident love for life itself. Trump loves money and maybe himself, and promotion of the promise of a mythological retro-era where white picket fences enclose all-white cookie-cutter neighborhoods; were rugged individualism stands supreme and the easy ownership and carrying of limitless firearms is understood as an undeniable right and as a litmus test for the realization of freedom and liberty.
Obama is a true MENSCH (Yiddish, “a person of integrity and honor”), the qualities that have secured his place in that great pantheon of “the good.” Trump has positioned himself as far away from the essential qualities of a mensch as one possibly can.
Obama reveals a MINDFULNESS in concentration, focus, study, and understanding of self, and an ability to “be here now” at the moment. Trump lives in his anger and paranoia in his own head, and he is nowhere close to obtaining self-knowledge or understanding of the responsibilities and details in his occupancy of the Oval Office.
Obama displays a NOBILITY, a graciousness and sense of decency, that virtually indefinable quality emanating from deep within. Trump doesn’t even know how to spell “noble,” let alone reveal it.
Obama demonstrates ORATORY precision by presenting a clear and sustained message, and in mobilizing his enthusiastic supporters to rally beside him. Trump seems unable to complete a full sentence while constantly bouncing from topic to topic and always landing back on himself.
Obama is PATIENT in seeing the big picture and in continuing the course in reaching goals, even when others deposit giant boulders to block his way. He understands that change takes time, often comes in fits and starts, and sometimes retrenches backward before advancing again. Trump has the attention span of a gnat, and he throws a temper tantrum when he can’t have his way.
Obama is PRAGMATIC and understands when compromise is required in his efforts to unite the disparate states and different factions of the fractured United States of America. Trump is dogmatic and defines compromise as retreat and failure.
Obama displays PRIDE in his multiple identities, and in serving as a positive and constructive role model to others who may have never imagined reaching the pinnacle of their potential. Trump has barely a clue who he is, and functions as a negative role model of aggressiveness and bullying – what has come to known as “The Trump Effect.”
Obama grounds himself upon an essential set of PRINCIPLES, which he never sacrifices for the sake of mere expediency or popularity. Trump changes principles like a chameleon changes colors depending on with whom he is talking at any particular moment.
Obama shows a QUICK wit that often delights his supporters and challenges his detractors to raise the level of discourse ever higher. Trump only lowers himself and the nation he fails to serve each time he utters or Tweets a half-intelligible word.
Obama has genuine RESPECT for other nations, and by so doing, he brought back respect for our country and for the office of the presidency from people and leaders worldwide. Trump, by destroying alliances, attacking former allies, and breaking agreements and treaty obligations, has brought shame and distrust to our nation.
Obama was STEADFAST in diplomatic negotiations in conflict resolution whenever and wherever possible rather than the raising of arms. Trump’s first inclination is to verbally attack, name call, and threaten, and, thereby, inflame rather resolve conflict.
Obama has the TEMPERAMENT, one of the most, or possibly the most, crucially important qualities in functioning effectively and responsibly in the highest and most critical position in our country. Trump’s temperament and character flaws place our planet in serious danger.
Obama UNDERSTOOD the full enormity of the awesome responsibilities he inherited upon election, responsibilities he never shirked, relegated, or denied. To say that Trump hasn’t a clue would be a gross understatement.
Obama’s high VALUES serve as the foundation of his beliefs, actions, interactions, responses, and initiatives. Trump values only wealth and power while never comprehending the meaning of “public service.”
Obama has a VISION to see the true potential of the United States in ultimately attaining the end goals in this great experiment in democracy. Trump has a vision how his role as president will bring more people to his real estate properties in rentals and fees to enhance his bank accounts on which he rarely pays taxes.
Obama shows a WARMTH and a WILLINGNESS to listen and truly hear others’ opinions in carefully weighing numerous options before coming to a final decision. Trump doesn’t need others since he believes that “Only I can do it.”
Obama shows us his sense of XENOPHILIA – a love of difference, of the “foreigner” — amid conditions where some political leaders and would-be leaders promote xenophobia to divide and conquer by exciting fear in their quest for power.
Obama has maintained a YOUTHFULNESS in his boundless exuberance and optimism, especially when the going was difficult in repairing a ruptured economy and bringing peace to an endangered world. “Youthfulness” is far different from what Sen. Bob Corker, Republican chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, charged when he called the White House “an adult day care center” after Trump attacked him on Twitter.
And through it all, Obama continued a ZEST for life, and for serving his country and the planet during his eight years in the White House with all the ups and downs in world and domestic events on this roller coaster called “politics.” Trump has a zest for cozying up to brutal autocrats and for grabbing women.
While presenting his address today at the University of Illinois, Barack Obama spoke a basic truth when he said:
I’m here today because this is one of those pivotal moments when every one of us as citizens of the United States need to determine just who it is that we are. Just what it is that we stand for. And as a fellow citizen — not as an ex-president, but as a fellow citizen — I’m here to deliver a simple message, and that is that you need to vote because our democracy depends on it.
We the people have the opportunity and the power to turn around the current crisis of confidence that is quickly reaching constitutional and existential proportions. Together we can recover from the deep pain of whiplash.