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Barack Obama’s DNC Speech Reminds Us What a Real President Looks Like

Obama's poignant plea showed us the measure of a man.

Last night at the virtual Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama delivered a somber and stirring plea to the American people to rise up and save their democracy from the clutches of authoritarianism. During his nearly 20-minute speech, delivered from Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution, Obama deviated from his signature hopefulness to deliver a stark warning of the dangers of four more years of Trump. And like his wife Michelle Obama did on the first night of the DNC, he focused on Trump’s incompetence and unwillingness to lead.

The former president delivered a searing indictment of his successor, saying:

“I have sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president. I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies. I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously; that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care.

But he never did. For close to four years now, he’s shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.

Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe. 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone while those at the top take in more than ever. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished, and our democratic institutions threatened like never before.”

There is something deeply cathartic about hearing Obama tear into Trump. And in true Obama fashion, it wasn’t with petty jabs or personal insults. He simply stated the case as plainly as could be: Trump is fundamentally unfit for the job he holds. And everyone knows it.

And while Obama maintained his serious tone, he still had moments of joy in his speech, especially discussing his close relationship with Joe Biden. “Twelve years ago, when I began my search for a vice president, I didn’t know I’d end up finding a brother. Joe and I came from different places and different generations. But what I quickly came to admire about him is his resilience, born of too much struggle; his empathy, born of too much grief … That empathy, that decency, the belief that everybody counts—that’s who Joe is.”

Obama also took time to commend the Black Lives Matter protesters who have been taking to the streets since the murder of George Floyd. “To the young people who led us this summer, telling us we need to be better—in so many ways, you are this country’s dreams fulfilled.”

All in all, it was a vital, powerful, and emotional speech. It was also a brutal reminder of just how intellectually and emotionally bereft this current administration is.

(via CNN, image: screencap/NBC News)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. She currently lives in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, son, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.