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President Obama’s Historic Presidency Comes To A Close

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President Obama’s Historic Presidency Comes To A Close

Trump's false accusation against Obama could lead to his impeachment

Dear Mr. President:

“Barack Obama is not Jesus.”

Those were the first words of the first column I ever wrote about you — a poke in the eye to Democrats who were singing rhapsodic hosannas about a certain highly regarded young senator. “Yes,” I griped, “he has great potential. But is it asking too much that people wait until he actually does something before they starting chasing his name with a hallelujah chorus?”

Two years later, you were elected president. Shows what I know.

Now the time has come to say goodbye. Which means it’s also time for people like me to furrow our brows in summation. I will leave it to others to analyze your legacy with regard to the economy, healthcare, foreign policy, privacy rights and war.

As you head for the door, I find myself simply wanting to address you as one African-American man to another about the singular mark you made on American history: first black president. To be a first black anything significant has often been a thankless task. Jackie Robinson learned this when he crashed Major League Baseball in 1947. Your experience proves that it remains true 70 years later.

You got it from all sides, didn’t you, Mr. President?

Certain opinion leaders on the left held that you failed to speak — and act — boldly enough on issues of concern to African Americans. It’s an argument that did not take political reality into account — would the same drain clog of a Congress that couldn’t agree to routine measures to raise the debt ceiling really have passed some huge program to ameliorate African-American woes? I also think you get too little credit for quietly dismantling much of the ruinous War on Drugs and working to reform racist policing.

Meantime, the political right thought you the love child of Louis Farrakhan and Nat Turner. By simply existing, by acting as if winning two elections actually entitled you to be president, you drove them crazy. You made them reveal — even revel in — the ugliness, hatred and fear that have always undergirded so-called conservatism where race is concerned. It is telling that the folks who grasped at every untruth and exaggeration to make you out as an America-hating Other now watch in feckless silence as Donald Trump plants sloppy kisses on the autocratic thug Vladimir Putin.

For myself, Mr. President, I was frustrated by your naivete. You were surely the last person in America to recognize the degree to which racial resentment drove the rigid resistance and shrill hysteria you faced. You seemed to think you could win over your most hateful critics by being conspicuously even-handed, even-tempered and good. But it doesn’t work that way.

Most any black person could have told you that. That said, let me also say: A defining truth about black life in America is that each of us carries all of us wherever we go. The incompetence of a black man in Dallas will keep a black man in Miami from getting a job. The dishonesty of a black woman in Oakland will get a black woman in Baltimore arrested.

Each one of us is every one of us. Which places an inordinate weight on the one of us who is called to perform on a high public stage.

You have performed on the highest, most public stage there is, sir, faced headwinds unprecedented in American politics and nonstop disrespect from the GOP. But you did so with unflappable dignity, unshakable class … and urbane cool. No stench of personal scandal wafts after you as you leave office, and the country is better for your service. So allow me to say, as one African-American man to another:

Godspeed, brother. You did us proud.

IMAGE: U.S. President Barack Obama pauses during an interview with Vox at Blair House in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

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  1. plc97477 January 16, 2017

    I am not an African-American male but I too am proud of the President we had. Thank you Obama for your class and determination to do what is right.

    1. Wolfesgang January 16, 2017

      I am not an African-American male either, and I can only agree.

  2. 1Zoe55 January 16, 2017

    I am saddened that President Obama’s tenure will soon be over. I voted for him twice and would do so a third time. President Obama faced obstruction from the Republican/TeaParty members from the night of his election. Under Obama’s guidance our country weathered the biggest financial meltdown since the Depression. Obamacare (a name given in derision by these same Republicans) opened the door for over twenty million Americans to receive medical care. Perhaps this may lead to Universal Health Care for all Americans. You also kept America from getting involved in a no-win civil war in Syria that would have meant more military and innocents’ deaths. Godspeed to you and to your wonderful family.

  3. Bill Smith 999935 January 16, 2017

    Thank God !!

  4. jmprint January 16, 2017

    Not just proud, but very, very proud. What a gentleman, what a scholar, what a great human being. To you I say THANK YOU very much, it was an honor experiencing your presidency, and sorry you had to endure the hypocrisy of so many so called christian conservatives who lack morals, humanity and kindness.

  5. Blueberry Hill January 16, 2017

    You did us extremely very, very proud. You are everything that Trump is not. We need you yet, Mr. President, we are heading into extremely loathesomeness.


  6. latebloomingrandma January 16, 2017

    From a senior citizen white woman, thank you Mr. Pitts for a great send off of a wonderful President and human being.

  7. 788eddie January 16, 2017

    I am a white, male registered Republican. During the eight years you were President, whether here or abroad, I was very proud to say you were our President.

    Thank you for your service to all of us; you will be remembered fondly, and our country did well under your leadership.

  8. FF January 16, 2017

    I’ve always admired our President’s calm demeanor, quick humor, and depth of his intellect. I also admire his genuine love for his family and his desire to ensure that he did everything in his power to leave the U.S. in better shape than when he assumed office. His heartfelt compassion is something I’ll truly miss.

    Thank you, Mr. President.

  9. angel fruit January 17, 2017

    what a great artcle..so true. As an African American, he had a “tough path ” and he came thru as pure gold.. God Bless you Mr. President.. I will miss you

  10. leadvillexp January 20, 2017

    Mr. Pitts; I have always admired you and you are correct. I am a white male Republican, NRA Life member and I voted for President Trump. I voted twice for President Obama and I think his legacy will be of one of our great Presidents. I have always voted for whom I think is best for our country. It is now time to heal the divide in our Nation. We need to start working together. One thing I believe is President Trump is not a Republican, he is more of an Independent. The Republicans disavowed him most of the election. Both Parties should have cowered in fear at his Inaugural Address. I have never liked the Clintons. Time will tell if I voted correct. A country divided cannot stand. It is time we spend our money in Appalachia and the ghettos of our cities, on our own people. Let the world fend for itself for a while and help our own. I am an Agnostic and I will end with this, God Bless us, we are in for a ride.


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