Thursday, January 12, 2017

Us vs Me, We vs I — Farewell Obama, Hello Trump

[USA Today]
 Tuesday night I listened to President Obama’s farewell speech and Wednesday morning I listened to president-elect Trump’s news conference. I was sad listening to my president say good-bye and angry listening to the president-elect spout off but aside from policy differences in the speech and the news conference, what struck me was the shift from “We can do it” to “I can do it.”

The President looked back to his early days as a community organizer and how he “learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.”

And: “After eight years as your president, I still believe that.  And it’s not just my belief.  It’s the beating heart of our American idea – our bold experiment in self-government.”

In closing: “I am asking you to believe.  Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.... Yes We Can. Yes We Did. Yes We Can.”  [Full transcript of President Obama's farewell speech]

Maybe you would dismiss all that as pretty rhetoric but it was hard not to be struck by the vulgarity of the next morning’s news conference.

By contrast, president-elect Trump was boisterously selling his Trump brand throughout his news conference, pledging what he was going to do, who he liked (his people, ‘brilliant’) and who he didn’t like (the ‘fake’ news media, intelligence agency leakers, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Schummer). With president-elect Trump it’s all about Trump and the American people will get what he’s promised because Trump and ‘his people’ are successful people and they are successful because they are smart. [Full transcript of Trump press conference]

After I watched President Obama’s speech, I wondered whether he had expected too much of us citizens, asked too much for our engagement in the civil process of self-government. A thoughtful friend also pondered: “I fear we are a nation of greedy people, and that is the most depressing. You are right, he asks more than the country is made up of. Maybe the next generation? We keep talking about what went wrong - maybe that declaration of independence was taken too literally and people are too independent and not enough dependent on each other.”

But after I listen to the bully braggart who promises he will “Make America Great Again,” I wondered what my part would be in his America. Where would teamwork and inclusiveness and diversity and cooperation be welcomed and not looked upon as impediments to the success of those in power? If what President Obama asked of us citizens was too hard, then maybe folks would just rather sit back and let Trump and his cronies turn the United States of America into Trump America?

I doubt it. Not without our say-so. Our America. We the people. We can. We will.

Thank you, President Obama.

--Mike Sato


  1. Barbara Courtney comments: "Very thoughtful and accurate, Mike. Thank you! True leadership is inclusive, and I, for one, do not feel included in the President-Elect's vision."

  2. Thanks. Yes, I still keep on thinking some real adults in charge will step us and tell us this is all some sort of bad joke. From my perspective, a Trump presidency will be a freak show of self-enrichment, greed, hubris (his words scream HUBRIS!), and divisiveness. And we're all going to watch it happen because this man got elected, honestly or not. Still seems unreal. Obama wasn't perfect, but he was a graceful, thoughtful adult with his heart in the right place I believe, and cared about our environment. A tragedy is unfolding.

  3. ...step UP...thanks for a thoughtful post, and yes, I have friends energized and taking action to push back.

  4. From north of the border, we are all still all amazed that this is actually seems so bizarre, unreal and downright scary. Like Jill, I keep hoping someone will step up to stop the train before its crash or derailment. I can only hope impeachment comes before he creates a deadly situation for all of us...

    This article from Maclean's is definitely worth the read, and worth sharing widely: