76: For Barack Obama in the Last Days of his Presidency

None of us knows what lies in wait for America and the world after the clock strikes noon on the January 20 fast approaching. But whatever happens, these two essential entities will have lost a very great deal–a leader and fellow traveler of great intelligence, grace, sensitivity, emotional maturity, wit, and wisdom; a leader who, every day, demonstrated his understanding of and his love for his country and its people; who, in the first months of his presidency was tasked with saving the world economy from collapse, and did; who, some years later, against massive, unremittingly vituperative, cold-hearted opposition, was able to sign into law the first, if not comprehensive at least applaudable, bill offering medical coverage to all of his country’s citizens; who, many times (alas, alas!), led his nation in weeping for the fallen tiny, non-white, or alternatively-preferenced victims of myopic, hate-inspired violence; who, with firmness coupled with perspicacious policy, kept the world order intact and out of horrific conflict for all of the eight years we asked him to administer. Whatever happens, all of this uniqueness of policy and character will be gone. I believe we have not seen his like since FDR. All but surely we will not see his like again in the years remaining to us.

Ruskin knew him, and wrote about him as follows:

I believe the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean by humility doubt of his own power, or hesitation of speaking his opinions, but a right understanding of the relation between what he can do and say and the rest of the world’s doings and sayings. All great men not only know their business but usually know they know it–and are not only right in their main opinions, but usually know that they are right in them. Only they do not think much of themselves on that account.

Arnolfo [di Cambio] knows he can build a good dome in Florence. Albert Durer writes calmly to one who has found fault with his work, “It cannot be better done.” Sir Isaac Newton knows he as worked out a problem or two  that would have puzzled anybody else. Only they do not expect their fellow-men, therefore, to fall down and worship them.

[All such souls] have a curious undersence of powerlessness, feeling that the greatness is not in them, but through them, that they could not do or be anything else than what God made them; and they [all] see something divine and God-made in every other man they meet; and are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.


For all these things and your own good self, sir, we are very grateful.


This entry was posted in Life, Tributes, Truths and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to 76: For Barack Obama in the Last Days of his Presidency

  1. mowena says:

    Dear Jim,

    Thank you for both of these very eloquent and poignant (at this stage of things) observations. Let us hope Ruskin–and you–will help us ride out these “interesting” times!


  2. Ron Ennis says:

    Amen brother. Thank you for these enlightening notes on the works of our 19th century friend. Ron

  3. Shannon Gale says:

    What a wonderful tribute
    to a remarkable man
    for his service
    to his country
    and kindness to all human beings.

    May the people hold the next President to be serve honorably and with greatness.

    Shannon Gale

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