'Stay cool and make great speeches': my advice to my two sons as Barack Obama steps down
“Of all that I have done in my life, I am most proud to be your dad” said Barack Obama in his farewell speech this week, addressing his daughter Malia in the audience. It seems, even for a man who has been president of the United States, fatherhood beats pretty much everything else.
If some of his speech’s more touching and personal moments drew a slight tear, this had me blubbing hard into my sleeve.
This guy thinks raising his daughters is a greater achievement that being leader of the free world. My God, what a guy. The perfect man. Especially when he made that speech in the rain.
Maybe I was fooled by his writers playing it for family-friendly, happy-ending hankytime, but in that moment, I believed him.
Obama was elected president just days after the birth of my first child and the two earth-shattering events are inextricably linked in my head. My (mixed race) children have grown up with him as a distant but cool and inspiring force in their lives. A modern-day Mandela doing it for the multi-cultural kids. He’s not a father-figure exactly, they already have one of those – but more like a fabulous distant uncle they have never seen in real-life. He is untainted by any of us actually having met him, and perhaps catching sight of his flaws.
While not yet a God or a saint, Obama has become a legend in his own lifetime. He is a role model of calm under pressure and civility in the face of brutishness and anger.
He always seemed so much more fabulous than anything that bloated, pink-cheeked British politics could cough up, and I encourage my boys to look up to him.
Now he is going, it is perhaps time to finally frame that poster and put it on my sons’ bedroom wall. You won’t make it to US president, lads, but if you have just 10 per cent of what he’s got, you’ll go a long way.
Stay cool, make great speeches, and treat everyone you meet as if they are the centre of your world. Be the one to inspire others to work for the greater good and you will go far.
I am placing copies of Dreams of My Father on their bedside tables. It’s surely only a matter of time before they do.