As the remarkable Obama presidency wound to a graceful halt this last Friday, there were many across the globe who would have been very sad to see America’s first president of African extraction go. Many will miss Obama: for his honesty, his candour, his decency, his integrity and above all for the humanity he so warmly exudes. Even the White House will miss one of its most storied occupants.
There was always something intensely personal about Barack Obama. You always have this feeling that you have seen or met him somewhere before. He seems exactly the kind of fellow you could share a can of beer or a stick of cigarette with. He appears to have listening ears and steady nerves; a man who would keep his own side of the bargain no matter what, and who expects you to keep yours. He was a gentleman in the old sense of the word.
Opinions are sharply divided about the ultimate worth of this norm-breaking presidency. Many have long concluded that rather than being a great presidency, Obama’s was merely remarkable stint. Great presidencies often require great events to lift the presidential game from mere humdrum competence to exalting distinction.
But we should not race ahead of the narrative. In order to have a full measure of the Obama presidency, we have this morning decided to read things backwards, in a manner of speaking; that is to project back to the beginning of it all before leaping forward to conclusion and closure in the coming weeks. As this column is wont to assert, history often moves sideways in order to move forward. Some gains are reversible until they become irreversible, etched everlastingly in the marble of human progress.
We publish this morning a piece that first appeared eight years ago upon the advent and inauguration of the Obama presidency. The mood was upbeat, rosy and brimful of optimism. Eight years after, the expectations have been tempered by sober reality. The liberal resurgence epitomized by the rise of Obama has produced a neo-conservative reaction in Europe and America epitomized by the rise of Trump and others with right-wing trump cards. No matter which forces are ascendant, the world would be a poorer place without the rich ironies of history.
By: Tatalo Alamu