I and several thousand other people are here early in McCormick Center, waiting for President Obama. We’re listening the warm-up act of Eddie Vedder and the Chicago Children’s Choir, followed by BJ the Chicago Kid with the national anthem. They all rocked the house—though in fairness it wasn’t the toughest crowd I’ve ever seen….
I am sitting in the press pen, sneaking into a spot nominally reserved for NBC News. I’m about 25 feet from Anderson Cooper. A gentleman, Mr. Cooper graciously let me take his picture. At least he would have, had I not nervously screwed up my fancy camera. He has a better seat. Still, I’m here with my White House press pass, my three cameras, a laptop. A tripod I don’t have permission to set up. I’ve hit the big time.
This is a poignant moment, the end of a sweet journey for many here. My own journey began 9 ½ years ago, when a friend invited me to a small Chicago party on behalf of Senator Barack Obama’s unlikely presidential campaign…. A man I hadn’t heard of, David Plouffe, was the headliner of this small party. He was there to talk campaign strategy. He got hard questions from a skeptical small crowd. Senator Obama was thirty points down in the polls. He was way behind in money. and in name recognition. He was a black guy with a…well you know the list…
I don’t for a moment believe President Obama has been the perfect president or the perfect steward of the Democratic Party. He was still very good. With virtually zero Republican help, his policies pulled our nation out of the deepest recession in generations. He rescued the auto industry. He brought health insurance to twenty million people. His soldiers killed bin Laden. He avoided war with Iran. He did many less noticeable things, too, such as building a Justice Department we can be proud of for its work on civil rights and disability.
He is one of the most worthy men ever to assume the presidency. The Obamas represent our country with such grace, humanity, and integrity. The contrast between President Obama and the grifting demagogue who will replace him defies belief.
President Obama has been the best and the classiest President of my lifetime. I’ve never regretted for one second the thousands of hours I’ve spent supporting his efforts.
Like millions of others, I just ache to see him go.
More here, from my piece at the Huffington Post.
One degree Chicago sunrise. Wow it was cold.
Birds are annoyingly nimble. Their aerial combat maneuvers resemble a CGI kung-fu action scene. I took an embarrassing number of rejects to get three or four good shots. Photography is a bit like golf. Its consuming challenges are stress-reducing and stress-inducing in almost equal measure. The grey winter morning background gave these otherwise rather drab birds an impressive look.
For the first time in my life, I am contemplating going to jail in an act of civil disobedience if President-elect Trump moves against people registered for DACA or carries out some of his other campaign promises. I’m not eager to get locked up, but I’d be at peace with it, too.
I wrote about my thinking today at the Nation.
My greatest fear, when I ponder going to jail, is that my 53-year-old prostate wouldn’t be able to handle the long wait until I am booked. Before Election Day, it seemed a little crazy to imagine that I would ever be behind bars. Now it seems a little crazy that the country would be where we are. Like many others, I am weighing what I am willing and able to do in response.Henry David Thoreau begins his 1849 essay On the duty of civil disobedience with a timely question: “This American government—what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but in each instant losing some of its integrity?” American government lost more than some of its integrity on November 8, when Donald Trump was elected to succeed Barack Obama as President of the United States…
[S]erious as they are, Trump’s personal improprieties and financial conflicts are not what lead me to ponder chaining myself to a courthouse door. Like no other president-elect in generations, he bluntly challenges bedrock norms of our pluralist democracy. That’s what Trump’s challenges to President Obama’s birth certificate and college transcripts were really about.
Hardly anything I have written at RBC gets as much sustained, positive reaction year after year as this utterly unwonky Christmas post. I thus re-post it here, having just done my letters of thanks again this year.
One of these days, gonna sit down and write a long letter, to all the good friends I’ve known.—Neil Young
For people of a range of faiths and of no faith, this week is a time to reflect upon the good things that happened to them over the course of the year. A few years ago, I added a step to this reflection process that has benefited me and a number of other people as well. I share it here for what it might be worth to others.
Each year, I sit down and think about 5 or 10 people who have brought good things into my life. Sometimes it’s a specific action (A neighbor who took me to the hospital when I fell and broke my wrist) sometimes it’s something larger (enduring friendship, inspiration and kindness). I then write to those people and thank them, not with an evanescent, dashed off email or text but with a real, honest to God letter.
Consciously reflecting on the blessings we have received has been shown empirically to make us happier and less anxious. I feel those emotions as a write my annual letters of gratitude: I am happier even before I have mailed them. More importantly, they build character by producing humility. The natural tendency — perhaps particularly for Americans — is to take individual credit for all the good things we have. But the truth is that none of us make it through life alone, and all of us are dependent on the kindness of strangers and intimates to make our lives livable.
The other aspect of this exercise which is truly win-win is how happy it makes people I care about to receive the letters. Clearly, no one does kind things in the hope of a letter of thanks. Yet the experience of receiving one often brings joy nonetheless. At their best, the thank you letters help people appreciate things about themselves: Not all patient listeners realize the healing they facilitate, not every remarkable person realizes the inspiration they give to others, not every funny person knows how their wit lifts low spirits at critical times.
This isn’t a self-help website and I am not selling anything, so I guarantee nothing about how an annual exercise in expressing gratitude may affect you and those you care about. But if something about this practice resonates with you, I hope you will try it and see what happens.
Best wishes to all for a happy and fulfilling 2017.