In the last nine years or so, I have been spending hours and hours every week to watch President Obama delivering speeches. Thanks to the Internet. Whitehouse is one of a very few, if any, governmental Youtube channel that I subscribed to. The reason is one: I like watching President Obama delivering speeches. I have watched many of his weekly address and missed only a few, if any, of his speeches in a lot of events and occasions. Obama is the first person that made me genuinely interested in politics. Obama made me believe that politics is not as bad as what I read from newspapers.
I know that Obama is far from perfect. A lot of bad things did take place in America and around the world during and due to his presidency. Despite his promise to end the war as soon as he take office, a lot more troops had to be deployed to the Middle East during his regime. His promise to close Guantanamo Bay was not as smooth as what he said in his campaign. He is not perfect, really but I have always been convinced that Obama has been the same nice person that I know for the first time in 2005. His number of failures only gives me more understanding and insights, how challenging leadership in real world can be.
Having understood myself how hectic bureaucracy can be, I admire more and more how cool Obama has been in the last eight years. Listening to his speeches, either in formal occasions, in memorial services, in schools, in universities, in front of journalists or in front of the crowds during correspondence dinner in Washington, is witnessing an extraordinary level of coolness. His brilliance in combining great and touching contents and fresh jokes in his speeches has always been the reason for me to learn diplomacy in an enjoyable way.
Obama is the only president on Earth whose speeches deliver constant inspiration for he speaks from his hearth. I know that I am biased but I am sure that I have been biased by many perspectives for I have watched hundreds of his speeches. Obama’s speeches are as inspiring as speeches in movies. His speeches can burn your spirit just like the speech of Thomas J. Whitmore in the “Independence Day”, or as touching as the acceptance address delivered by John Nash in “A Beautiful Mind” or as energizing as Colonel Jessup’s anger in the “A few Good Men”. As a person with a hobby to memorize movie dialogues, I consider Obama’s speeches are as moving as brilliant movie quotes so that I would love to learn by heart.
Obama’s down-to-earth approach is unparalleled. I agree with a lot of people in the United States of America that during his presidency, a lot of ordinary people, for the first time, really feel that they can be part of “WE” in the first phrase of “We the people” in their Bill of Rights. Obama can be as authoritative as typical great leaders when situation requires him to be one. To me, Obama can be as forgiving as Mandela, as non-violent as Gandhi and as strategic as Lincoln in his leadership.
It is unfortunate, however, to see that Obama did not manage to secure supports from Senate and Congress as he would ideally secure. His brilliant agendas and ideas could not always be executed easily. The political noise in Washington often cruelly wiped out his good intentions and willingness. However, I have never changed my mind about him that he is the same good person that I knew when I witnessed by my own eyes the change of political tone in New York in 2007. Michelle Obama, his brilliant wife and the, arguably, coolest First Lady America has ever had, has correctly put that “being president doesn’t change who you are”. Being president, she noted, “reveals who you are”.
As per 20 January 2017, Barack Obama is no longer the Commander in Chief of the Free World. Donald J. Trump replaces Obama as the 45th president of the United States. I sincerely congratulate Trump and wish him a good luck to run the Whitehouse. Honestly speaking, I was not inspired by the 2016 election process in the United States. Trump’s performance in his long campaign did not show characters of a Statesman that the world would expect from a superpower like the United States. I realize, that I might be biased, as everyone would. Now with Trump has been inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, I really hope that I have been biased a long this time. I really hope that what I read or watch about you, President Trump, incorrectly explained who you are in the coming years.
One thing that I can tell without hesitation is the fact that Trump’s speeches do not manage to move me as how Obama’s would do. Listening to Trump’s inaugural speech is like listening to an ordinary speech with flowery words. Listening to Trump speaking about marginalized and poor people somehow made me feel uneasy, considering his background as a billionaire businessman. I don’t think that Trump can that quickly become a representation of those people so that the speech sounded more like merely well-memorized lines. For this too, I hope that I am wrong.
On a more serious note, Trump’s speech does not project America’s attitude as a leader of the world. His speech is more on “making America [itself] great again”, as if it is now weak and on the losing side of a battle. For a country like America, with such powers and authority, this adolescent-like attitude is somehow worrisome. I understand his statement on the fights against “radical Islamic terrorism” but the explicit use of the word “Islam” can also be inferred differently. Certainly, terrorism has to be fought against and this should not only be related to Islam. This statement may be considered as a negative signal by the Muslim world. Once again, I hope that I am wrong.
Despite the fact that I am not convinced by the quality and commitment of President Trump to the world, it is indisputable that the world still hopes and expects an American leadership. Whatever one may say about Trump and other American Presidents, it is uncontested that policies coined in the Oval Office at the Whitehouse can really affect people in the forgotten corner of the world. It is not too much, therefore, if I expect good leadership from President Trump. I think it is safe to say that I am speaking on behalf of millions of people in the World. Trump is the Commander in Chief of the strongest military in the world, holds the secret code for arguably the largest nuclear installation on Earth, and now his party, the Republican, holds the majority in Senate and Congress. It undoubtedly makes sense to hope that President Trump will exercise such power wisely. He needs an extraordinary level of coolness and calmness since whatever he would do, can potentially be major headlines of media all over the Globe.
My views on Trump can be longer but I will end here. Like it or not, Trump is now the 45th president of the Land of a Free. His personal character will certainly color the American leadership in the world but we also know that the distribution of powers in the system will become an effective control to excessive and, especially, abuse of power. I also believe that the American people are not selfish. When necessary, they will show us what they are made of. They will eventually take a right position to uphold the democracy, that they are running the government of the people, by the people and for the people. Trump deserves our support to be a good leader for America so the country can play a good and wise role in the world.
President Trump, it is unlikely that I will spend hours and hours to listen to your speech during your presidency, unlike what I did to Obama’s. It is unlikely that I will quote your statements for their inspiration in my speech and writing. However, I am sure that you can be a great leader if you seriously fight for it. I agree that you want to make “America great again” but I also know that the greatness of America lies in its ability to embrace and walk alongside the world. Quoting Hillary Clinton in her concession speech, you “deserve chance to lead”. Most importantly, you already secure my “open mind”. Congratulation and good luck, President Trump.
Desa Tegaljadi, 21 January 2017
I Made Andi Arsana
An Indonesian academician, head of Office of International Affairs of Universitas Gadjah Mada