Dec 19, 2012

Yesterday, TIME magazine announced that President Barack Obama is Person of the Year (POY) for 2012.  That same afternoon after announcing that Vice President will be leading an inter-agency task force to address gun violence, the press remarkably asked more questions about the fiscal cliff than the topic of gun violence which was the purpose of the press gathering in the first place.  The last question, which many on Twitter said was a rudely and unprofessionally asked, was asked by ABC's Jake Tapper.  Basically he asked why the President after four years was just now addressing gun violence.  So just in a matter of hours, the President is given Person of the Year honors and then basically slammed as if he was lazy and heartless.  People love him and people hate him.  He doesn't complain about the toughness of his job; he signed up for it.  Yet and still it is a tough job.  We are a very demanding, opinionated, and impatient democracy.  Even though our government is not designed for the president to govern alone, the people have very high expectations of the President of the United States.  No one understands that better than President Obama himself and those that have held the office previously. Though I would argue that the previous presidents can not entirely relate to the first African American president and the dynamics that fact alone presents.

Our President has faced numerous historically difficult issues simultaneously with rigid opposition during his first term.  His re-election was quite the feat.  During the 2012 campaign, his weariness was quite apparent.  During his last campaign stop he got quite nostalgic and shed a couple of tears.  When I heard of this, I thought, "oh he is just tired and needs some rest."  When I finally watched his final campaign rally, I realized that physical fatigue probably made it easier for him to be vulnerable enough to cry publicly.  But make no mistake about it, he was overwhelmed by his supporters and the fact that there was a great chance that our country could go backwards if he was not elected to a second term. It was his final campaign rally and he had laid it all on the line.  He had given all he had and it was now up to the voters.  The tears were genuine. Paraphrasing a statement Joy Ann Reid of made after the final rally, Barack Obama fundamentally is a decent man.  His heart is in the right place. He did not seek the presidency for the heck of it. He did not sacrifice an "easier" life because it seemed like the logical career path. Re-election seemed even more improbable than his initial election.  I do not say this to say that previous presidents or other elected officials have other motives. But let's face it, their stories and his story differ on some key fronts such as race, lineage, and privilege.

Undoubtedly, the President's strength is appealing to the American people.  He is forever the community organizer.  His campaign team is in a category all by itself.  Not likely to be replicated even by Democrats.  The day after the 2012 election the President stopped by the main Chicago campaign office where he cried yet again showing much gratitude for their work and sharing how impressed he was with them.  All of his remarks were recorded and later viewed by millions of people.  I don't know about you but the willingness to "go there" and show such emotion told me how much he needs us.  He was clear that he needed our votes to be elected and re-elected.  Now it is clear that he needs us in the governing process.  In yesterday's announcement about the gun-violence task force, he reiterated the point that he cannot do this alone.  Congress, specifically the House of Representatives, is not a reliable governing partner.  Who else is he going to turn to, in order to move this country forward?

After the tragedy at Sandy Hook, Melissa Harris-Perry said on her show this past weekend that she read a little more into the President's tears.  She stated that maybe the tears represented a sense of helplessness because of the extreme dysfunction in Washington.  I do not necessarily agree that that specifically was the case, but it is not a farfetched concept. Undoubtedly, the President feels the burden and is keenly aware of the limits to his influence and authority.  The American people need to be aware of those limits as well, if we in fact want change.  The same energy and effort it took for him to be elected to a first and second term is the same energy and effort it will take for him to have a successful presidency.  Having said that though, this isn't about him.  I am an avid supporter and want him to be successful.  But the President and his family are going to be alright in the next four years and the years that follow.  The question is will we be alright?  To bring about change, it is clear that the President needs us, but the truth is WE NEED US in order to fare well in the next four years and beyond.


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