06 October 2009

What I Admire President Obama For

I have, so far, found one thing that stirs some admiration of President Obama.

Some people would say that he should be admired for being the first African-American president.  Sorry, I can’t muster that feeling.  It’s not because I am racist or think that a black person shouldn’t hold the highest office in the land.  Contrary to that, I believe that it was inevitable for a person of color to be elected president at some point soon; it was only a matter of time, and not a matter of unique providence.  Had it not been Obama, the first black president would have been chosen not too many elections down the road, considering the growing number of well-qualified public servants who happen to be African-American.  Even now, the vast majority of people would not make their decision based on the color of the candidate’s skin; how much more would this be true in the future.  Becoming the first black president is not something that only Barack Obama was capable of doing.  So, though it was indeed an achievement, it bears only equal admiration to any person being elected President of the United States.

As a secondary thought, among those who nearly worship Obama for this accomplishment, I would ask if they would have had the same reaction if the first African-American president had been Colin Powell, or Condoleeza Rice, or even the reoccurring ultra-conservative candidate Alan Keyes.  My guess is that for most of the Obama admirers, the answer to each would be no.  They would not admire in any way a conservative black person who was elected president.  This simply shows that their admiration of President Obama is steeped in political motives and not solely because of the historical achievement.

But all this aside, there is one thing that causes me to admire both President and Mrs. Obama.  I was reading a book today on the history of the Secret Service by Ronald Kessler, In The President’s Secret Service.  This book is based on research and interviews with both retired and current Secret Service agents.

Among the chapters detailing the Secret Service’s interaction and service to each president of the 20th century, there is one which discusses President and Mrs. Obama.  In it, Kessler paints a picture of two people who are gracious to the agents on their protection details.  Mrs. Obama is very friendly and insists that the agents call her Michelle.  President Obama tries to be prompt when leaving the White House under Secret Service protection, and when he isn’t, Mrs. Obama has been known to chide him for being inconsiderate, by keeping his agents waiting.  On occasion, the Obamas have even invited agents to join them at family meals.  These anecdotes certainly give a personal face to the Obamas.  Though I don’t agree with their politics, these stories lead me to believe that I would indeed enjoy the Obamas’ company, were I ever afforded the opportunity.

Now, it should be noted that nearly every president has acted toward the Secret Service with a demeanor of respect, courtesy and appreciation.  (The sole exception seems to have been President and Mrs. Clinton who, when out of the public eye, treated with contempt the agents on their details.)  Regardless of political persuasion, each president should be admired by all for this proper conduct and attitude.

Now, some may say that it is to be expected that a president and his family should treat their guardians with respect, and that President Obama and his wife are only acting with common courtesy.  But I do think that it goes beyond that.  Though I cannot respect Obama for his policies, politics, decisions, or the character evidenced by his actions and chosen associations, I can and do respect his treatment of the Secret Service.  It is truly worthy of admiration how the Obamas show graciousness and honest appreciation to those who, if called upon by a would-be assassin, are willing to sacrifice their own lives to preserve the lives of the president and his family.

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