I can’t see Obama seeking any other type of political office after his Presidency. Quite frankly, I don’t think Obama likes politics all that much. For him, politics has been a necessary evil — the means to a very specific end (the Presidency).
I don’t envision Obama seeking or accepting a less prestigious position after two terms in the White House. Nor do I think that he needs to do so in order to remain an influential voice. I believe he has the ability to stay relevant without holding any further office. In fact, that could be a strength as he would have the freedom to focus on the issues most important to him without fearing the response from his constituency.
I’ll tell you what I’d love to see Obama do after the White House. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have been wonderful examples of the type of meaningful work that an ex-President can do by putting to use his talents, influence, and unique connections with foreign leaders and people around the world. The humanitarian accomplishments of the Carter Center and Clinton Foundation are impossible to list, but those groups (and their partners), under the leadership of our former Presidents, have done and continue to do remarkable things for the world. George W. Bush has also began to follow in the Post-Presidential footsteps of his predecessors, particularly in Africa where Bush directed a tremendous amount of humanitarian aid while he was President. Since leaving office, Bush has continued to show his interest and concern for the people of sub-Saharan Africa and has expanded his relief efforts there.
No one would be surprised to see Obama commit himself to similar efforts after leaving the White House. The examples set by former Presidents Carter, Clinton, and now Bush, have made such humanitarian work almost seem part of the responsibilities of being an ex-President.
I hope Obama will continue such work, but with a different focus. I’d like to see the former community organizer bring relief efforts or humanitarian missions to troubled people and places right here in the United States. That would be very powerful, and I think it could be effective.
Imagine Obama, like Clinton, raising money for a Foundation through the force of his personality and mere presence. While Carter and Clinton use their foundations to build homes, provide low-cost or no-cost medication and health care, or offer educational opportunities internationally, imagine the impact an Obama foundation could have by rebuilding or reinforcing struggling communities here in the United States. Recreational centers with safe places to play sports, do homework, receive tutoring, take certain enrichment classes, and so on. Intramural sports leagues, a community library, performing arts program, adult education (including GED prep), literacy programs for all ages. Access to a school counselor to help find a path to higher education and navigate the application/financial aid process. Life skills, creative cooking classes, responsibility seminars for prospective/deadbeat dads, assistance for single parents/teen moms, child care resources for working parents, a food bank, clothing donations. Mental health resources, access to health care information, vaccines, STD screenings, quarterly health clinics, nutritional education. Even graffiti removal, clean-up crews, public art installation, and neighborhood beautification projects to instill some pride and a feeling of ownership within residents toward the community that they live in.
I could go on-and-on. This obviously is a subject that I have strong feelings about. If someone came up with the financial backing for such a program I would drop everything in order to have the chance to run it. Programs and resources such as these can mean the difference between rehabilitating communities or allowing them to wither and die. Having someone of Obama’s stature and influence advocating for such programs would bring attention to the issue and be a major factor in attracting direct funding as well as the in-kind donations from corporate partners, non-profit organizations, and other collaborators that help power such wide-ranging, ambitious projects.
As President, Obama has frequently mentioned the need to wrap-up our military commitments overseas so that “we can do nation-building here at home”. That would be a fantastic post-Presidential mission for Obama — “domestic relief” or “homefront humanitarianism”. That type of work even has a natural jump-off point — Chicago — due to Obama’s familiarity with his adopted hometown and the staggering number of young people being murdered in the city.
There is even a model for effectively organizing people at the grass roots level and empowering them to lead by telling personal stories and sharing why what they are doing is important to them — the Obama campaign in 2007-2008. By using Camp Obama training techniques like the “story of self”, it should be easy to establish programs in communities ripe for revitalization. Obviously, the message would no longer be about electing a certain individual, but the message could easily be changed while the delivery system, proven to be effective, remains the same.
Alright, I’ll stop daydreaming for now. But this is the perfect post-Presidential mission for Barack Obama — a chance to truly do that “nation-building here at home” that he has mentioned so many times.
(Oh, and I know you’re reading this because you’re a big fan, so, Mr. President, count me in if you need help with this idea.)
We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again — so it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set: to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love, to never discount the difference that one person can,make, to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.
President Barack Obama, statement on the death of Nelson Mandela, December 5, 2013
Obama’s speech after losing the New Hampshire primary in January 2008 was the “Yes, We Can” speech:
Thank you, New Hampshire. I love you back. Thank you. Thank you.
Well, thank you so much. I am still fired up and ready to go.
Thank you. Thank you.
Well, first of all, I want to congratulate Senator Clinton on a hard-fought victory here in New Hampshire. She did an outstanding job. Give her a big round of applause.
You know, a few weeks ago, no one imagined that we’d have accomplished what we did here tonight in New Hampshire. No one could have imagined it.
For most of this campaign, we were far behind. We always knew our climb would be steep. But in record numbers, you came out, and you spoke up for change.
And with your voices and your votes, you made it clear that at this moment, in this election, there is something happening in America.
There is something happening when men and women in Des Moines and Davenport, in Lebanon and Concord, come out in the snows of January to wait in lines that stretch block after block because they believe in what this country can be.
There is something happening. There’s something happening when Americans who are young in age and in spirit, who’ve never participated in politics before, turn out in numbers we have never seen because they know in their hearts that this time must be different.
There’s something happening when people vote not just for party that they belong to, but the hopes that they hold in common.
And whether we are rich or poor, black or white, Latino or Asian, whether we hail from Iowa or New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina, we are ready to take this country in a fundamentally new direction.
That’s what’s happening in America right now; change is what’s happening in America.
You, all of you who are here tonight, all who put so much heart and soul and work into this campaign, you can be the new majority who can lead this nation out of a long political darkness.
Democrats, independents and Republicans who are tired of the division and distraction that has clouded Washington, who know that we can disagree without being disagreeable, who understand that, if we mobilize our voices to challenge the money and influence that stood in our way and challenge ourselves to reach for something better, there is no problem we cannot solve, there is no destiny that we cannot fulfill.
Our new American majority can end the outrage of unaffordable, unavailable health care in our time.
We can bring doctors and patients, workers and businesses, Democrats and Republicans together, and we can tell the drug and insurance industry that, while they get a seat at the table, they don’t get to buy every chair, not this time, not now.
Our new majority can end the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas and put a middle-class tax cut in the pockets of working Americans who deserve it.
We can stop sending our children to schools with corridors of shame and start putting them on a pathway to success.
We can stop talking about how great teachers are and start rewarding them for their greatness by giving them more pay and more support. We can do this with our new majority.
We can harness the ingenuity of farmers and scientists, citizens and entrepreneurs to free this nation from the tyranny of oil and save our planet from a point of no return.
And when I am president of the United States, we will end this war in Iraq and bring our troops home.
We will end this war in Iraq. We will bring our troops home. We will finish the job — we will finish the job against Al Qaida in Afghanistan. We will care for our veterans. We will restore our moral standing in the world.
And we will never use 9/11 as a way to scare up votes, because it is not a tactic to win an election. It is a challenge that should unite America and the world against the common threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear weapons, climate change and poverty, genocide and disease.
All of the candidates in this race share these goals. All of the candidates in this race have good ideas and all are patriots who serve this country honorably.
But the reason our campaign has always been different, the reason we began this improbable journey almost a year ago is because it’s not just about what I will do as president. It is also about what you, the people who love this country, the citizens of the United States of America, can do to change it.
That’s what this election is all about.
That’s why tonight belongs to you. It belongs to the organizers, and the volunteers, and the staff who believed in this journey and rallied so many others to join the cause.
We know the battle ahead will be long. But always remember that, no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.
We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics. And they will only grow louder and more dissonant in the weeks and months to come.
We’ve been asked to pause for a reality check. We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.
For when we have faced down impossible odds, when we’ve been told we’re not ready or that we shouldn’t try or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we can.
It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation: Yes, we can.
It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail towards freedom through the darkest of nights: Yes, we can.
It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness: Yes, we can.
It was the call of workers who organized, women who reached for the ballot, a president who chose the moon as our new frontier, and a king who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the promised land: Yes, we can, to justice and equality.
Yes, we can, to opportunity and prosperity. Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can repair this world. Yes, we can.
And so, tomorrow, as we take the campaign south and west, as we learn that the struggles of the textile workers in Spartanburg are not so different than the plight of the dishwasher in Las Vegas, that the hopes of the little girl who goes to the crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of L.A., we will remember that there is something happening in America, that we are not as divided as our politics suggest, that we are one people, we are one nation.
And, together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story, with three words that will ring from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea: Yes, we can.
Thank you, New Hampshire. Thank you. Thank you.
Someone recently asked me about my favorite speeches, and I should have included this one.
I am very disappointed.
I know that a President cannot take time to honor every anniversary of everything that has happened throughout our history, but the sesquicentennial of the Gettysburg Address is a perfect opportunity to pause and remember Lincoln, Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg, the Battle of Gettysburg itself, and package all of that in a way that honors the other 150th anniversaries of Civil War-era events that take place throughout Obama’s term.
Honestly, I think it’s a a public relations decision rather than a political one. I think that President Obama doesn’t want to go to Gettysburg, make a speech, and then have it compared (likely negatively) to Lincoln’s speech. If that’s not the reason, I don’t understand what is.
(By the way, you mentioned Obama’s gifts as an orator, and he certainly has them. However, can anyone remember a truly great speech from Obama as President? There have been highlights, but when was Barack Obama’s last great speech? Both Inaugurals were disappointing. The 2008 Democratic National Convention? Maybe. Acceptance speeches at nominating conventions tend to be long and overly-clichéd. The “More Perfect Union” speech in Philadelphia in 2008 after the controversy with Reverend Wright? Again, it was good at times, but not his best work. Honestly, I think the last great speech that Obama gave was in New Hampshire on the night that he lost the New Hampshire primary to Hillary Clinton in January 2008. He hasn’t given a speech like that as President.)
I hate to give the cop-out answer, but it’s truly a bit of both. Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe wrote a fantastic, in-depth story on Saturday about what went wrong with Mitt Romney’s campaign, and what the Obama campaign did right, particularly with the overwhelming number of staffers Obama had on the ground and offices opened up in key battleground states in comparison to what Romney had.
Both campaigns had state-of-the-art voter targeting and tracking software, but the Obama campaign learned from mistakes made in 2008 and ensured that there were no glitches on Election Day — a mistake that the Romney campaign paid dearly for on November 6th.
What really stands out in Kranish’s article, however, is the differences in staffing and on the accountability for individual voters that Obama staffers took on during the campaign. The sheer number of people that Obama had on the ground in certain states (especially Florida and Ohio) is incredible and undoubtedly played a part in his victory. In some battleground states, Obama offices popped up like Starbucks franchises and that presence allowed the campaign to target the voters they needed to get to the polls. I mean, I was offered five different jobs by the Obama campaign in October in five distinctly different parts of North Carolina — and that’s a state that Obama lost! Kranish explains it far better than I can, so I highly suggest checking out his article.
It’s time to wrap two weeks of political Conventions up and move this crazy and interminable campaign into its final stretch, the official general election cycle, with three Presidential debates and one Vice Presidential debate on the horizon and Election Day just SIXTY DAYS away. If you haven’t already, check out Part I of Smart-Ass Commentary of the final night of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, featuring John Kerry, and Part II, featuring the best speech that Joe Biden has ever given.
Eight years ago, I sat with my then-girlfriend in her apartment in Sacramento and watched “a skinny kid with a funny name” who was running for a U.S. Senate seat in Illinois mesmerize the 2004 Democratic National Convention. When he finished speaking, I turned to my then-girlfriend and said, “That man is going to be President of the United States someday.” And she laughed out loud.
Five years ago, I went to work for that man’s fledgling Presidential campaign and was never surprised over the next 18 months as he overtook better-funded, better-known, and better-experienced candidates to climb in the polls, then win some primaries, and then eventually clinch the Democratic Presidential nomination. It was four years ago when I couldn’t hold back the emotion and cried as I watched Barack Obama accept that nomination in front of 85,000 supporters at a stadium in Denver. When he was actually elected in November 2008, I was ecstatic. When he was sworn in as President on my birthday in 2009, it was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.
Now, it is 2012. Things are different. They aren’t as great as we had hoped for, and the change isn’t as clear as we expected. Yet, Barack Obama is still the candidate I supported from the beginning. He’s still the person I believe is the best choice. And, as he accepts the Democratic nomination for a second term as President, I will try to give my Smart-Ass Commentary, even though the Clinton and Biden speeches were more like my Totally-Biased Fanboy Commentary.
One interesting thing to look for: Barack Obama burst on the scene as an absolutely electric orator and when he is “on”, he is one of the best public speakers in the United States. However, he’s following a great speech on Wednesday by THE best public speaker in the United States, former President Bill Clinton, and a FANTASTIC speech tonight by Vice President Joe Biden. Can Obama surpass Clinton and Biden?
•In the interest of fairness and honesty, I ran out of steam about halfway through Vice President Biden’s speech, but I’ll do my best to say a few interesting things in Obama’s speech.
•Michelle Obama: “I’m so proud to introduce the love of my life. The father of our two girls…” — I’m very surprised that she ended that sentence by bringing out Joe Lieberman. I did not see that coming.
•Ew…the President’s entrance music stinks. He should have come out to Jay-Z’s “Hola Hovito”.
•I know it’s been four years, but Malia and Sasha have grown up so much since the last Convention. And Malia is as tall as the President and First Lady!
•If I were President Obama, the first thing I’d say would be, “Can Osama bin Laden please stand up? Osama? Is Osama bin Laden here? OH, THAT’S RIGHT…I ORDERED A DARING RAID DEEP INTO PAKISTAN THAT KILLED HIM. So, there’s that.”
•And then just nonchalantly shift into the regular speech.
•I would probably pay at least $10,000 just to stand in front of a packed political Convention and be able to say, “I accept your nomination for President of the United States”. That seems like it would be a fun moment.
•I think Obama used some Just For Men to touch up four years of Presidential gray hairs. I feel like he’s usually got a bit more gray.
•The President really glues himself to that teleprompter. I know it’s not a big deal and everyone uses one, but it does bother me because Obama rarely breaks away from it. Connect with the television audience, Mr. President!
•”Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning.” — The President made a funny!
•Obama is hitting all of his talking points and doing what he needs to do, but after watching the natural delivery, passion, and empathy of Bill Clinton and Joe Biden the past two days, this particular speech isn’t in their league.
•It’s still astonishing to me that the President of the United States of America has to declare that “climate change is not a hoax.” A significant amount of our nation’s population is fucking retarded. And, when I say “retarded”, I don’t mean to be politically incorrect — I mean that they are as dumb as rocks and should have to wear helmets with flashing lights on them and that we should point and laugh at them and bully them incessantly.
•So, yeah, I totally did mean that in a politically incorrect way. Unfollow me.
•”Cold War mind warp” — I said Romney was stuck in 1980s foreign policy the other day. Copycat.
•Alright, enough with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro already! Has anybody ever become more overexposed in a shorter amount of time? He hit the national scene on Monday and I was tired of the guy by Wednesday. He’s like a commercial that played too often.
•Also, I don’t know what it is, but there’s something inexplicably creepy about Julian Castro. I don’t have specific answers, but it just feels like he’s smothered more than one elderly person and/or hotel housekeeper with a pillow.
•Julian Castro looks like the type of guy who cries uncontrollably every time he takes a shower and can’t color inside the lines with crayons even though he’s an adult.
•Obama should set up an empty chair, pretend its Clint Eastwood, and then just kick it over and say, “What’s up now, Million Dollar Baby?”
•Obama: “But we don’t think that government is the source of all of our problems anymore than welfare recipients or corporations or unions or immigrants or gays or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.” — How funny would it have been if Obama followed that up with, “Although, black people in general do need to step it up”?
•Hahaha…the President said “doody”.
•Then again, maybe it was “duty”. That’s not as funny, but makes a lot more sense.
•Obama is going on and on about the things that we are responsible for and that we have been the force of change for and is spotlighting people that “we” have helped around the country (“You did that!”), but I feel like he crossed the line by blaming us for the Gabby Giffords shooting.
•Obama: “Times have changed and so have I. I’m no longer just a candidate. I’m the President.” — If anything ever deserved to be punctuated with a “muthafucka”, it was that. Way to blow it, Barry.
•Obama: “I’ve never been more hopeful about America…I’m hopeful because of you.” — Man, the President does not get out of the White House to meet “average” Americans very often, does he?
•Grand finale time.
•The President got sufficiently emotional and passionate towards the end; he even got going with the whole black-preacher-on-the-pulpit cadence at the very end and that’s always a winner.
Alright, the Conventions are over! President Obama gave a good, solid speech. It was what it needed to be. Nothing really stood out, but it didn’t drag, either. I’m guessing he’ll get a little bigger bounce in the polls than Romney did from the Republican National Convention.
Overall, I’m a little surprised to say that Joe Biden gave the best speech I saw this week. I didn’t think President Clinton could be topped, and if he were, I thought it would be by President Obama, but it was the Vice President who pulled it off. Best speech of the week, followed closely by Clinton, and then Obama in third place.
Now we can give this bit a rest until the debates!
Author Edward McClelland, a veteran Chicago journalist, wrote a great book about Barack Obama’s early political career called Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President (BOOK•KINDLE) that was I reviewed upon publication and found really interesting. With the 2012 race and President’s Obama’s bid for re-election really heating up, I asked McClelland a few quick questions to gain the perspective of a longtime Obama-watcher.
DP: Recently, I’ve had a significant amount of readers who have questioned President Obama’s political toughness. In your book, Young Mr. Obama, you chronicled the President’s rise through the Chicago political world. Do you think people underestimate the President’s tenacity because of the way he projects himself?
McClelland: He comes off as a very cool, dispassionate personality. The other side of that is that he’s one of the most calculating people I’ve ever met, and doesn’t hesitate to discard people who are of no more use to him politically. He’s tough and unsentimental in that way.
DP: We never know what kind of “Swift Boat”-type attacks might pop in between Labor Day and Election Day and it seems to me that the Obama campaign will not let any attack, major or minor, pass without a direct response. Is this a trademark of past Obama campaigns in Illinois? The Obama team does not hesitate to strike back, does it?
McClelland: I think this is as much David Axelrod’s influence as Obama’s. During Obama’s Senate campaign, embarrassing divorce files on two opponents — Blair Hull and Jack Ryan — were leaked to the press. Obama will use whatever dirt he can find on Romney.
DP: I get the feeling that the President respects Paul Ryan, but genuinely dislikes Mitt Romney — maybe not personally, but because of Romney’s shifting political sands. You’ve watched Obama for a long time; do you sense that the President has a bit of disdain for Governor Romney?
McClelland: I did read that in POLITICO, but can’t speak to it otherwise.
DP: In your opinion, is this re-election bid the toughest race of Obama’s political career?
McClelland: I think his toughest race was his failed run for Congress against Bobby Rush. But I think this is the race Obama is taking most seriously, and the race he’s most determined to win.
DP: Obviously, political leaders evolve and mature, but from your perspective, has there been a marked change in the President’s personality or tactics that has surprised you?
McClelland: I am a little surprised to see him slinging so much mud at Mitt Romney, since he began his career as a good-government politician and spoke out against dividing America into Red and Blue during his address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. But because he inherited such a deep recession, he doesn’t have a record of economic growth to run on, so he has to tear down Romney.
DP: Is Obama’s Chicago campaign crew as potent of a machine as it was in 2008, or are there obvious chinks in the armor in the President’s homefront?
McClelland: Well, Romney has been attacking Obama as a “Chicago politician.” The fact that our murder rate is up this year doesn’t reflect well on us, or Obama.
DP: If Mitt Romney wins in November, Barack Obama will be a 51-year-old ex-President. Could he pull a Grover Cleveland and make another run in 2016, or do you think that he (or Michelle) would shut the door on being a candidate for public office in the future?
McClelland: If It’s extremely close, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run again.
Big thanks to Edward McClelland for answering a few questions for Dead Presidents! If you guys enjoyed it, I’d love to do some more quick author interviews on the blog in the future. As I said earlier (and in my original book review), I strongly recommend McClelland’s Young Mr. Obama. The book gives us some fascinating insight on the type of politician Obama is and you’ll be surprised at some of the obstacles he faced, battles he fought, and lessons he learned as he made his rise through Chicago and Illinois state politics. The book is a steal right now for just $2.99 on Kindle, so go grab it now!
Edward McClelland is also on Twitter @TedMcClelland. Keep an eye out for his next book, Nothin’ But Blue Skies: The Heyday, Hard Times, and Hopes of America’s Industrial Heartland, which will be released on May 14, 2013 by Bloomsbury Press.
Happy Birthday to the current President of the United States, Barack Obama, who turns 51 years old today.
While you can celebrate President Obama’s birthday by electronically signing his birthday card, and many of us get to take a day off of work in February to celebrate the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, there is actually a quiet, little-known tradition which honors each President’s birthday.
Upon the birthday of each of his predecessors, the incumbent President dispatches an honor guard or group of soldiers to their burial site and a wreath is placed next to their grave or tomb from the President on behalf of the people of the United States.
Wreath at Thomas Jefferson’s gravesite (note the card from “The President”):
Wreath at Grover Cleveland’s gravesite:
Wreath-laying at Andrew Johnson’s gravesite:
Wreath on the tomb of John Adams:
44th President of the United States (2009- )
Full Name: Barack Hussein Obama, Jr.
Born: August 4, 1961, Kapi’olani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital, Honolulu, Hawaii
Term: January 20, 2009-
Political Party: Democratic
Vice President: Joe Biden
Like George W. Bush, it is far too early to fairly rank Barack Obama alongside his predecessors. Obama’s legacy is still being decided — whether he is a one-term President or a two-term President will be decided by the voters in November. To show how quickly a President’s place in history can change, Obama can thank the Chief Justice who messed up his inaugural oath for casting the vote to uphold Obama’s landmark health care reform — that decision by the Supreme Court probably moved Obama up at least two spots in my ranking than it would have been two weeks ago.
1948: Schlesinger Sr./Life Magazine: Not Ranked
1962: Schlesinger Sr./New York Times Magazine: Not Ranked
1982: Neal/Chicago Tribune Magazine: Not Ranked
1990: Siena Institute: Not Ranked
1996: Schlesinger Jr./New York Times Magazine: Not Ranked
2000: C-SPAN Survey of Historians: Not Ranked
2000: C-SPAN Public Opinion Poll: Not Ranked
2005: Wall Street Journal/Presidential Leadership: Not Ranked
2009: C-SPAN Survey of Historians: Not Ranked
2010: Siena Institute: 15 of 43
2011: University of London’s U.S. Presidency Centre: Not Ranked