Today is the last full day of Barack Obama’s presidency. And I am grateful to have lived in the United States at a time when the white male monopoly on the Presidency was broken, at last.
It’s important to say that I do not agree with Obama on everything, and in fact, I vehemently disagree with the positions he has taken on certain subjects dear to me. However, there is one point on which I can unequivocally admire Obama: his integrity and dignity in his personal life.
There are ample role models in American society when it comes to, say, athletic grit—but there are relatively few real role models of character in family life. More often than not, those who explicitly sing the praises of “family values” are the ones who fall down in a blaze of scandal and notoriety.
Obama never said, “Look at how great I am with my wife and my family.” Rather, that greatness made itself evident every time we saw them together, because it is clear, explicitly and implicitly, that he respects his wife and children as women and as individuals. He praised Michelle, Malia, and Sasha in public frequently, but not for their physical beauty. Instead, he would praise them for the strength of their engagement, curiosity, and intellects. He made it clear that his top priority for his children was for them to become good, kind, empathetic people. The smile on his face whenever he saw his children or his wife was without affectation: He truly savored their company. Whatever you may feel about his political positions, in terms of his love for his family, the guy is the real deal.
Whatever our politics, I think it’s important to appreciate this love. Every one of us feels this kind of unqualified love for people in our lives—whether our parents, our spouses, our partners, our siblings, our children, or some fortunate combination thereof. You’d think that because love is somewhere all around us, it would become commonplace and unremarkable. But its omnipresence makes it all the more remarkable, I think. It shines through like a light in the darkness.
Perhaps all this doesn’t need to be said. But in a time where not everyone seems to feel that women are deserving of respect—or in a time when there are those who believe that women should be judged based on the size of their breasts rather than the content of their character—I feel it must be.
Thank you, President Obama, for your service to this country. We disagree on many things, but the dignity you brought to the office and the dignity you showed us as a father and husband are truly impressive—and something to which we can all aspire.