Between Trump’s tantrums and Hilary’s scams, the world seems to have forgotten a hero that spearheaded the world’s most powerful democracy for close to a decade - Barack Hussein Obama. A President that took centre stage in the wake of one of the largest financial crises of our times and directed his nation towards an era of not only recovery, but of profound prosperity. President Obama has been a symbol of hope and aspirations that withstood impenetrable turmoil and doubt, while the impacts of his policies were felt far beyond the boundaries of his nation.
For a 12 year old version of me studying in a small town in Kerala, Obama’s message was simple- with enough effort and the right principles, there isn’t a darn thing in the world that isn’t achievable. He never confined himself to an idealistic model or history of himself. Often confessing about how he made mistakes as a teenager, or talking about his experiences with marijuana, Obama was a man anyone could relate to as a millennial. Here was a man, fighting for the world’s most powerful office, all while talking about his roots in Kenya- a country which had once enslaved his people. His message wasn’t one that was tampered and polished to suit public interest. It was bold, clear and personal. Where the average politician would talk about his experiences in office and policies, Obama would often explain why he believed in the reforms he suggested and back it with personal anecdotes and stories of average citizens like you and me. Step back - and take a look at how Hillary and Trump have been handling their campaigns. One instills fear of immigrants and talks about building a darned wall, while the other repeatedly mentions her experiences in handling foreign policy, especially in the context of curbing terrorism. Both instil fear and paranoia to herd the average citizen towards choosing them. In drastic contrast, Obama’s message was simple - Change we can. With his posters imprinted with ‘Hope’ in big bold letters, Obama wasn’t leveraging the apocalyptic moods of the post recession era towards his benefit. Rather, he was spreading what some would call ‘positive vibes’.
As a politician, Obama has his share of fails and by no means am I suggesting that he has been the epitome of perfection. However, in comparison to Trump’s “Pussy grabbing” statements and egoistic jingoism, Obama has been a role model for young boys and girls, not an imposter like his probable successor. A symbol that is much needed in an age and time that has repeatedly seen the virtues of leadership being in absolute absence amidst the bastions of power. Obama was voted the President because The United States of America wanted him as the President, whereas in the case of his successors, they would be made President more out lack of choice in candidates. This speaks volumes. Narendra Modi with his narrative of once being a chaiwala had a similar narrative, but take into consideration the fact that his start was with organizations which had a religious leaning, and his nationalistic fervour has often been rooted with little talks of unity. Obama on the other hand, made his most iconic statement when he once said “There is not a liberal America, and a conservative America, there is the United States of America”. He did have the choice of seeking support from black voters as he worked towards attaining an office that was once built by black slaves, but he chose not to. Rather- he connected with everyone. An entire nation as a whole. For a nation that has been drowning in vote bank politics, imagining something of this order happening in India, in recent times, is a far fetched thought.
As Obama leaves office, we’ll see one of the most iconic leaders of our times move on. His work was as contrarian as he was as a person. A unifier of sorts who knew to watch out for the best interests of his people, a stern individual who could make his point and stick with it while being inclusive of counter-arguments, an expert war commander that brought back troops from Afghanistan and caught the world’s most wanted terrorist, a leader capable of making decisions backed with facts while being able to look at the future with visions that went larger than life in itself. Obama’s leadership leaves us all with countless lessons to look upto, both in our personal and professional lives, and as India attains its path towards development, one can only hope that the quality of leadership within our own national borders rises to be in par with what Obama has displayed over the years.
- Joel John