As outgoing president Barack Obama, having delivered his Farewell Address, prepares to leave public office after eight years of remarkable service, this citizen believes he deserves a big “Thank You” from the American people.
In today’s toxic political environment I assume that he will not get one.
Since 1796, most presidents have delivered a farewell message to the people. George Washington’s was mostly written by Alexander Hamilton, with input from Jefferson and Madison. It was filled with great wisdom and served well many of the following occupants of the White House.
In its 32 handwritten pages, he recommended avoidance of debt and entangling alliances. He wrote that overgrown military establishments are hostile to liberty. He emphasized education and literacy, so that Americans could better understand governance and become responsible citizens.
Washington, knowing the danger of blind partisanship, warned that political parties will cause divisive factions. He urged a policy of neutrality among nations, giving no country favored-nation status. Washington cautioned of altering the precious Constitution only lightly.
Another war-tested general, President Dwight David Eisenhower, warned 164 years later of the dangers of a growing military-industrial complex. Looking at today’s political scene, one realizes that neither Washington’s nor Eisenhower’s warnings have been heeded. America’s current debt is huge. And under a GOP plan to cut taxes on the wealthiest citizens, it promises to explode by another $10 trillion or more.
For several years, I have been authoring “The Secret War Diaries of Abraham Lincoln.” Reading his writings, I have been impressed by his command of language and respect for the Constitution. Lincoln demonstrated that a nation often gains when it elects a constitutional lawyer as president. Lincoln followed the Constitution with caution and prudent care of execution, as has constitutional scholar and former law professor Barack Obama.
Neither Washington nor Lincoln experienced the persistent obstructionism that Obama encountered upon taking office. In Washington’s day, the Senate would never have blatantly refused to hold confirmation hearings on a candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court. Under President Obama, that happened to the highly qualified Judge Merrick Garland.
Under Washington, no member of the House of Representatives would have called him a “liar” as he spoke to a joint session of Congress. That happened to Obama. Under him, Republican senators signed a direct appeal to the leaders of Iran to reject a vital multinational agreement that inhibits Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Under President Obama, Republican leaders invited the president of Israel to address the U.S. Congress to speak in opposition to an international agreement vital to U.S. foreign policy.
For eight solid years, the Republicans have done everything possible to injure the Obama presidency. Yet through it all, the poised and composed president has executed the laws of the land faithfully, with good humor, patience and wisdom. Nasty personal attacks are not in his playbook. His word has been trusted by our allies and understood by our enemies.
History may conclude that his administration was one of the most honest in U.S. history. A ruined economy was carefully restored to health and vigor. Job growth has been consistent, and unemployment is at record lows. The stock market is at a record high. He has worked to make Americans safer from gun violence in spite of GOP support of the National Rifle Association’s death agenda.
He has reduced by over 90 percent the number of U.S. troops in costly foreign wars begun by his predecessor. He has arranged for international agreements to fight global warming and acted to make our air and water cleaner and safer. Every day, ISIS has been degraded. And Bin Laden, the author of 9/11, was killed.
Obama has reduced the number of Americans without health insurance from an estimated 46 million to 28.5 million. The fact that 2.8 million more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton, who supported the Affordable Care Act, than for her opponent, suggests that the plan is far more popular with those with the insurance than is credited by the media.
Barack Obama is, first and foremost, a gentleman who has served with grace, patience and intelligence. His path has been the high road. His family has been an inspired role model for the American First Family.
In October 2009, Barack Obama was prematurely awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for setting a “new climate,” including nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and reaching out to the Muslim world. (Three other U.S. presidents received the prize — Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter.)
I believe the Nobel Committee wanted to send a clear message to the world that Obama represented a bright ray of hope for peace and prosperity. The Norwegians were prescient.
President Obama has been just such a ray of hope. America and the world are better off, thanks to his remarkably honorable service to country and mankind.
Paul R. Dunn lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.