Dear America: Barack Obama owes you nothing
In case you’ve missed it (although, really, how could you) lot of people are deep in their feelings right now about how former President Barack Obama is living his life.
The things he should be doing:
The things he should definitely not be doing:
And, of course, how much money is “enough” for Barack Obama and his family:
Given all that, we—as a nation—should really be clear on what President Obama owes us now that he’s out of office.
Barack Obama owes you nothing.
Not a single thing.
He doesn’t owe you, he doesn’t owe me, he doesn’t owe the Democratic Party, he doesn’t owe the media—he doesn’t owe anybody other than his own family (yes, I’m including Bo and Sunny).
But that’s it.
Even if you ignore his years as an organizer, Barack Obama spent 18 years as an elected official, eight of those as President of the United States. That wasn’t enough?
Purely out of spite, the Republican party decided — on the night he was inaugurated — to refuse to work with him and risk another Great Depression. Overcoming that, putting in place policies that saved the economy, that wasn’t enough?
He was insulted during a joint session of Congress, abandoned by would-be liberals during the 2010 midterms because they were ‘disappointed’. Still, health care legislation Democrats have failed to pass for more than a generation was enacted. Was that not enough?
Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
Still not enough?
Bin Laden. Lilly Ledbetter. The new GI Bill. The auto industry. The CFPB. Eliminating Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Refusing to defend DOMA. DACA. DAPA. My Brother’s Keeper.
After seven years, Barack Obama was denied the right as president to fill another vacancy on the Supreme Court. After eight, he was replaced by a man who built his political career on six years of publicly questioning Barack Obama’s legitimacy as an American.
But Barack Obama owes you more? Still?
Barack Obama did more community service while he was president than Donald Trump has done in his entire life.
Barack Obama sent personal checks to struggling Americans while in office.
Barack Obama was volunteering the day before he was inaugurated in 2009. He then established the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and he and his family volunteered on the day in every year of his presidency.
In fact, not only did Barack Obama put in more community service—while in office—than Donald Trump likely has in his life, Barack Obama has put in more community service than Donald Trump in just the last 100 days.
And don’t pretend like Trump can’t make the time. In the last 100 days, Trump has made the time to golf nineteen times.
Barack Obama could spend the next two decades of his life giving in-depth dissertations on the Matrix trilogy and still have put in more public service than most Americans will in their lives by an order of magnitude.
If Barack Obama decided to spend the next two decades base jumping in the Swiss Alps the only thing he should hear from us is, “fly safe.” If he chose to lie on a beach in the Bahamas for the next decade-plus our only advice for him should be, “please wear sunscreen.”
Yet, we already know that’s not what he’ll do. He said as much in his farewell address to the nation:
My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you. I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my days that remain.
So, the question now isn’t what Barack Obama will, should, or shouldn’t do, the question is what will you do?
What will we do?
This question isn’t asked simply by me, but by President Obama himself in the closing of his farewell address just a few months ago.
And if President Obama being replaced by a cadre of grifters, incompetents, and white nationalists has made us all forget that fact, maybe it’s time to take a moment to watch the final few minutes of that speech again.
Then, maybe we can turn and face the questions that actually matter.