It’s a unique thing we do with our American Presidents. We roll out the red carpet and play Hail to the Chief while mocking them around the coffee pot and on Saturday Night Live.
No other country does this so well. We glorify on the one hand and belittle on the other.
It gives our Presidents a cartoonish caricature…a surreal mix of reality and fantasy, the unreachable quality of royalty mixed with that of a sceptre-wielding buffoon.
But we want our President to be, well, Presidential, in the vein of, ask not what your country can do for you and fireside chats, however, twitter seems clipped and brassy, perhaps 140 characters shallow?
Hubris seems to be an occupational hazard of the presidency. If you were lacking in self-awareness when you took office, it’s clear that by the time you say goodbye to your staff that you are now more aware that the world revolves around you. It is, to be fair, a challenge to remain humble while listening to Hail to the Chief every time you enter a room.
Which gives me great pause to consider that President Trump, (if I had written that a year earlier, I would have typed LOL after Trump), enters the White House with infinitely more hubris than any predecessor, even without hearing as yet, Hail to the Chief.
But there are occasionally Presidents who seem earthy, more human. Lincoln, FDR, Truman, and now, for me, Obama. I haven’t always agreed with him, and I’ve even described him as arrogant at times, but I understand his humanity more deeply than Reagan, Carter, Johnson, Nixon…
Speaking of Nixon, I’m reminded of a song by James Taylor titled, “Line ‘em Up”, about the moment he left office, and about the hypocrisy and denial in the midst of hubris in that moment of goodbye:
I remember Richard Nixon back in ’74 and the final scene at the White House door
and the staff lined up to say good-bye, tiny tear in his shifty little eye,
he said, “nobody knows me, nobody understands.
These little people were good to me, oh I’m gonna shake some hands.”
Somebody line ’em up, line ’em all up, line ’em up, line ’em all up.
Eight years of Obama have gone by. Where have they gone? This morning I watched a clip of Obama saying goodbye to his staff and others. It wasn’t anything like that Nixon moment. It was classy and full of grace.
No, I didn’t always agree with President Obama, but I’m thankful for Barak and Michelle Obama, for their humanity, their passion, their grace.
You can tell they were loved. They were real. They defined grace and class. They were human.