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Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Despite his being a lame duck, President Barack H. Obama did not quack in delivering his farewell address on January 10, 2017.  He is too intelligent to reify a metaphor.  Obama lectured on the centrality of the rule of law in democratic experiments, using nuanced dignity to distinguish the rule absolute from the rule nisi as those concepts are defined in Black's Law Dictionary.

Obama's address wasn't as stellar and memorable as a few delivered by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy.  It was competent and sweeping in scope, a vocal correlative of his habitual audacity of hope.  It resonated his faith in his fellow American citizens, the  excessive optimism that is an unfortunate albeit noble flaw in Machiavellian political theory.  The quality of his address should remind us that Obama is a Kenyan American, that his existential identity is rather unlike the identities of African Americans whose history he shares mainly by accident of citizenship and European Americans whose history he shares truly by accident of birth.  Such awareness positions us to use irony in future assessments of his two term service as President of the United States of America and Commander in Chief of our nation's military forces.  Should we fail to factor the ironies of the contemporary world order and its deceptive classifications of everything into our anatomy of his achievements (the good, the bad, and the ugly), we minimize the power of truth-telling. We descend into romantic mythologizing and fail to be precise in describing Obama's old-fashioned  penchant for filling our minds with uncontested terms.

It is fair to say that during the ninety-six months Obama served as our first Kenyan American president, he succeeded in navigating the combat zones of imperial politics with a modicum of grace and honor.  It was indeed gracious of him to quote his mother's saying "Reality has a way of catching up with you." His exit oration provides evidence that reality has caught up with him and his fellow American citizens.  Recognition of reality is a philosophical proposition that involves no metaphysical certainties bids us to be cautious and skeptical in speaking about what our Kenyan American president did and what he failed to do.  It is possible we shall need eight more years of analysis and interpretation to take Obama's measure. We need not rush to reify and valorize  the metaphors we live by. Our minds must not quack.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.                                            January 11, 2017

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