*”B, the U.S. prison system called,” I quipped to Barack Obama as he sauntered in. “They want that shirt back.”
Of course, his shirt, a white long sleeve button down number with black stripes, which Obama wore with light gray dress pants and black shoes, didn’t resemble prison garb in the least. But the black stripes gave me the opportunity to tease.
During his presidency, on TV talk shows Obama, in that self-depreciating way he had of popping off about the perks of being president by complaining about them (“I do miss not being able to just get out and go someplace when I want”…“It’s not always fun being surrounded by all these guys with guns…”), often said that after his eight year tenure in the White House, driving himself in his own car was one of the things he looked forward to in civilian life.
However, glancing out my window at the shiny black SUV parked on the street in front of my building, I could see a thick-necked gentleman in the driver’s seat. Behind that vehicle was another black vehicle just like it, a young tightly coiffed woman behind its wheel.
One of the occupants from that vehicle, a tall, solid 30-something blond man in a dark blue sport jacket and faded blue jeans with the chiseled jaw line of a toy action figure, stood in my living room behind his lanky subject, managing a polite smile as his eyes anxiously darted around the room. Yet another strong looking dude, a Brother, stood sentry outside my front door.
I was impressed that Obama had shown up. Only a couple hours earlier, I’d texted our former president the message that if he and former First Lady Michelle happened to be in Los Angeles during their worldwide post-presidential frolicking and had the time, he might drop by my humble abode to both say hello and goodbye to a visiting buddy of mine during my friend’s last few hours in town.
Remarkably, not only did Obama drop by; himself headed to the airport, he offered my faceless friend a lift to LAX to catch his flight, too, which I thought particularly kind.
After greeting my quietly excited buddy and posing for the obligatory selfies, Barack turned to me and with subdued glee said he was in L.A. to put into motion the master plan for his action-packed professional future, which he wanted to share with me if I had a moment. “Of course, I do, B,” I said, eager to hear this incredible news.
And then I woke up.
I know. My apologies for taking you down that road. If you are too pissed to even read any further, I’ll understand. But if I had to experience such an exhilarating moment—-God, it seemed so real—only to awaken and discover it a vivid figment of my subconscious, then you, too, must indulge me in my disappointment.
This happens, obviously, because I think of him often. I wonder where he is, what he’s doing, how he’s doing it and what he intends on doing with the rest of his professional life.
Consider that Obama is young enough, smart enough and world-beloved enough that the title of President of the United States could very well end up not being the greatest achievement on his resume. The man is just getting started.
I wonder what Obama knows. You can just imagine the political “tea” (gossip) coming off The Hill to which he is privileged. Certain folk inside the current White House no doubt funnel to “Obama’s people”—-former White House staffers–both delicious hearsay and very real and vital information, which I’m sure they then share with Barack and Michelle. Trust me, the Obamas know EXACTLY how the Mueller investigation is going.
I wonder if Barack has smoked any herb since he split office. You can’t tell me he and Richard Branson don’t get down. Listen, the Brother has earned every puff.
In any case, ever since he left the White House, It’s as if Obama left the planet altogether, illustrating just what graciously extracting oneself from the national spotlight looks like.
Those famous people who, after some personal crisis or another, issue a statement saying, “Please allow us our privacy at this time,” but are talking to People Magazine the next week should take notes from the Obamas. If the world’s most famous family can all but disappear, any famous person can do it.
Oh, every now and then we get a visual of he, Michelle, Malia and Sasha hanging out somewhere. Or Obama will publicly speak his mind on a particular issue. But for the most part, he is a ghost.
People say they wish he could be president again. I don’t wish that for him. Obama did his time, and under the incredible circumstances—-you know, being the first Black Commander-in-Chief and all that came with it—he served with smarts, skill and compassion. As a bonus all too cliche, he was our first Cool President.
Instead of wishing on him yet another term, we have to ask ourselves: what are WE doing? What is OUR contribution?
I’m simply gratified to have witnessed those eight years. Because of him and the First Lady, I know how Michelle Obama felt mid-February 2008, before their first presidential term, when, while campaigning against Senator John McCain, Mrs. Obama said, “For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.”
Pushing back at the time, McCain’s wife Cindy publicly stated, “I have and always will be proud of my country.”
Mrs. McCain couldn’t know how difficult it is to be a patriot in a country that treats you with spite and prejudice. The disrespect for Mrs. Obama didn’t wane when she became First Lady.
Which is why I heartily thank the Obamas for allowing me to realize more than a little of that pride Michelle expressed back then. I thank them for doing the heavy, backbreaking lifting; for having the sheer audacity to dream such a mammoth dream.
Thank you both for representing on an international stage in a fashion that made me proud to be both Black and American. Before the Obamas, I never truly experienced natonal pride without having to put an asterisk on the declaration.
I’m not the only one who dreams of Obama. So does Donald Trump. And he doesn’t experience what my brother Gerald affectionately calls “The Kenyan Voodoo” just at night. Everyday that Trump attempts this job for which he is patently unqualified, he is haunted by Obama.
It’s said that Trump hates Obama, which is why he attempts to destroy all that Obama created. I don’t buy that. I believe Trump actually admires Obama. He’s alternately fascinated and utterly dumbfounded.
Trump’s never seen, up close, the likes of a Barack Obama. The strength, intelligence, timing. The fortitude. He is reminded of Obama whenever a world leader looks at him like they smell something; everytime the media compares his trifling administion to Obama’s. It’s driving him crazy. Well, crazier.
Most important, Trump doesn’t understand that no matter how many Executive Orders he signs, no matter how many do-good government agencies he shutters, he will never undo the legacy, for Obama’s true and everlasting legacy is not what he passed or signed as president, but how he conducted himself as a man.
My beautiful, enchanting dreams will always be Trump’s nightmare. That, I can sleep on.
Steven Ivory, veteran journalist, essayist and author, writes about popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet. Respond to him via [email protected]