By Julianne Malveaux
As of this writing, President Barack Obama has less than a month left in office. Vacationing in Hawaii, he seems to be using his limited time well, pardoning or commuting the sentences of more than 200 people in December. He has also moved to protect the environment in ways that can’t be reversed by the incoming administration. And he has made some last-minute appointments of people who are likely to be extremely effective in their work. He has even had several talks with his successor, and while it is unlikely that the man who won the Electoral College vote has listened very much, Obama has clearly handled himself with the same dignity and grace that he managed throughout his eight years as President.
When Oprah Winfrey interviewed Michelle Obama, the words “dignity and grace” came to me as well. Michelle has been nothing but gracious in transition. Gracious, but also a firm and fierce fighter for her husband and his legacy, for her daughters and their well being, for women and girls around the world. As I watched Oprah and Michelle, I could not help but contrast that interview with one Anderson Cooper did with Melania Trump after the tape where her husband oafishly bragged of assaulting women. Michelle Obama has more class in her tiniest fingernail than Mrs. Trump has in her whole body.
Remember when the fashion press pooh-poohed Michelle’s bare arms. Now we have an incoming first lady who, if her hometown newspapers have it right, has bared everything. And not a day goes by when we don’t hear of another business conflict from the President-elect. His winery in Virginia wants to bring in workers on H2B visas to work 40-hour weeks! Is this the same man who excoriated others for sending jobs out of the country, and for bringing foreign workers in? Too many have advised Mr. Trump to divest himself of his many holdings so that he can focus on running the country and avoid conflict. So far, he has not agreed to do so. In Trump-land there is likely to be a scandal every week.
But this is not about the Chumps, it’s about the Obamas. How will I miss them? Let me count the ways. I’ll miss President Obama’s cool stride and his even cooler rhetoric. I’ll miss his commitment to social and economic justice. I’ll miss the pardons and commutations and the fact that more than a thousand people have a new lease on life. I’ll miss his self-possession, and the ways he keeps his cool, when others might be publicly steaming. And I’ll miss his very genuine smile.
And I’ll miss Michelle’s stylish appearances and her determination to define herself instead of letting others do it for her. Whether she is wearing haute couture or Old Navy sweaters, she looks perfectly in place. Her initiatives to get people moving and eating more healthily are important at a time when so many of our nation’s high schools are not offering physical education classes. And the work she and Dr. Jill Biden have done to work with veteran families has also been important.
Oh, and I’ll miss the parade of African American notables going through the White House. While I’ve fussed that the President never overtly embraced his blackness, he certainly celebrated it when he had the likes of Aretha Franklin and Beyoncé serenading him or performing at the White House. These things are more symbolism than substance but I’m going to miss the symbolism.
The Obamas are by no means perfect. I’ve written about the many times I think President Obama has dropped the ball, especially around initiatives with HBCUs. I’d hoped that he’d pardon more people (he still may). I’d hoped for better health care legislation, but I’m mindful that from the day President Obama walked into the White House, his detractors vowed to make his life miserable. For two years, he had both the House and the Senate, but he wasn’t able to work them as effectively as he might have. For the last six years he has met with opposition at every turn, which has limited his success. So he hasn’t been perfect, but we’ll miss him. And I’d rather have President Barack Obama drop the ball than have Crooked Trump put his finger on it.
For the next four years the White House is likely to be devoid of dignity. Indeed, if the man the Electoral College picked has his way, he is likely to gold plate the front entrance! We will miss you, Barack, Michelle, Sasha and Malia. You brought class, dignity, fun and restraint to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I’m not sure what Mr. Conflict of Interest brings, except a bunch of billionaires.
Julianne Malveaux is an author and economist. Her latest book “Are We Better Off? Race, Obama and Public Policy” is available via www. amazon.com for booking, wholesale inquiries or for more info visit www.juliannemalveaux.com.