STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Obama reminds us what a US president should sound like

Article Image

Former President Barack Obama criticized the handling of the coronavirus pandemic without mentioning President Donald Trump by name, in a virtual commencement address to graduates of HBCUs.

Posted: May 17, 2020 5:50 PM
Updated: May 17, 2020 5:50 PM

Former President Barack Obama delivered two online commencement addresses on Saturday that did more than offer words of inspiration for the graduates -- he reminded us of what a US President should sound like.

In these two speeches -- one to those graduating from high schools and the other to those graduating from historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) -- he urged people to be selfless, to work together to help those in need and to reject divisiveness. What a contrast to Donald Trump's almost daily message of pitting Americans against each other, his lack of empathy and his trademark philosophy of "It's all about me."

Comparing Obama and Trump, though, is unfair on some level. Obama is everything Trump will never be: Compassionate, thoughtful, intellectually curious, honest and highly intelligent. Obama's commencement speeches simply reminded of us that very fact.

For starters, Obama didn't make his addresses about himself or his own grievances; his focus was on those graduating. What a contrast to Trump's 2017 commencement address to the US Coast Guard Academy where he told the graduates, "Look at the way I've been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history -- and I say this with great surety -- has been treated worse or more unfairly." To Trump, every day -- even your graduation day -- is about Trump.

Beyond that, various statements from Obama's two speeches -- while not mentioning Trump by name -- were in my view a plea to reject Trumpism, which I define as a celebration of selfishness, bigotry, cruelty and divisiveness.

One part of Obama's speech from "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020," that especially jumped out as a contrast to Trump is when the former President stated, "Doing what feels good, what's convenient, what's easy -- that's how little kids think." He added, "Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grown-ups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs, still think that way -- which is why things are so screwed up."

Trump is the poster child for take the easy way out of a situation that demands a long-term, thoughtful approach. We've seen this recently during the coronavirus pandemic as Trump pushed for miracle cures from the virus -- from suggesting ingestion of disinfectant to telling us in February that the virus will, "One day, it's like a miracle, it will disappear."

Obama implored the high school graduates "to ground yourself in values that last, like honesty, hard work, responsibility, fairness, generosity, respect for others." When is the last time you heard Trump urge Americans to be generous or to "respect" others? Instead we see the opposite from him, as happened again over this weekend when Trump tweeted a video of his self-professed supporters yelling at and even cursing at a reporter who was covering an anti-lock down protest. These protesters were "great people," Trump wrote.

During Obama's speech to the HBCU graduates he also urged a rejection of selfishness, telling the audience, "So rather than say, 'What's in it for me? What's in it for my community? And to heck with everyone else,' stand up for and join up with everyone who's struggling." He then listed various communities such as immigrants, racial minorities, refugees and the LGBTQ community that need support.

Trump, by contrast, is the "What's in it for me?" President. Just look at his Twitter feed on any given day. It's littered with tweets about how he's being treated unfairly or how others have wronged him from the news media to the "Deep State" to "Saturday Night Live." You name it and Trump has whined that they are unfair to him.

Trump has by design divided Americans -- because he believes it helps him politically -- by either demonizing or implementing policies that target some of the very groups Obama urged people to unite to support. We've seen that from the time Trump came down the escalator to kick off his campaign in June 2015 with his demonization of Mexican immigrants to his time as President trying to implement polices that discriminate against the LGBTQ community.

In both graduation speeches, Obama urged people to work together for positive change in our nation. The former President told the high school grads, "build a community. No one does big things by themselves" while telling the high school students, "you can't do it alone. Meaningful change requires allies in common cause."

What did Trump tell us about the problems facing our nation when giving his speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention? "I alone can fix it." To Trump, it's always about "I," "me" and what can you do to help me.

Listening to Obama made me dream of the day when we can again have a President who is compassionate and thoughtful. One who appeals to our better angels as opposed to trying to divide us. One who represents the best of American values, not the worst of selfishness and cruelty. A President who when he speaks, makes us proud. And come January 20, 2021, my hope is that such a dream becomes a reality.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 206299

Reported Deaths: 2750
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah40280614
Washington26740248
Marion23370323
Clackamas18872235
Lane13862162
Jackson11518146
Deschutes998682
Umatilla859287
Linn557280
Klamath477478
Yamhill477379
Polk397755
Douglas385881
Malheur361163
Josephine357572
Benton325422
Jefferson236339
Coos216637
Columbia190829
Union149124
Wasco143830
Lincoln142721
Crook128923
Hood River121933
Morrow115316
Clatsop10449
Baker100915
Curry70111
Tillamook6604
Grant5487
Lake4678
Harney4309
Wallowa1945
Gilliam761
Sherman671
Wheeler351
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3806465

Reported Deaths: 63274
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles124703324444
Riverside3015434625
San Bernardino2991864811
San Diego2815313771
Orange2729225109
Santa Clara1200322187
Kern1107341402
Sacramento1075601730
Fresno1028671722
Alameda895621272
Ventura816091030
San Joaquin746291438
Contra Costa70478810
Stanislaus633871069
Tulare49799849
Monterey43831421
San Mateo42615581
San Francisco37243556
Santa Barbara34593455
Solano33673266
Merced32284477
Sonoma30825323
Imperial28801741
Placer23477299
Kings23185247
San Luis Obispo21421261
Madera16618245
Santa Cruz16232208
Marin14185229
Yolo14141212
Butte12644194
Shasta12630233
El Dorado10363116
Napa1001480
Sutter9650113
Yuba646451
San Benito610963
Lassen578424
Tehama572763
Nevada490375
Humboldt446248
Mendocino430650
Tuolumne420771
Amador373147
Lake356345
Glenn243027
Siskiyou239337
Colusa228418
Calaveras220156
Del Norte14548
Inyo143438
Mono12954
Plumas7366
Modoc5565
Mariposa4657
Trinity4225
Sierra1130
Alpine890
Unassigned400
Medford
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 64°
Brookings
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 78°
Crater Lake
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 64°
Grants Pass
Partly Cloudy
64° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 64°
Klamath Falls
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 67°
Excessive Heat Warning for Father's Day
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events