EDITORIAL: President Obama leaves office with class

York Dispatch
  • President Barack Obama issued his farewell address last week.
  • He used the speech as a call to action to every American citizen.
  • A few days later, Donald Trump held a news conference notable for its combativeness.

In a matter of days, Barack Obama will no longer be president of the United States.

For some, that's a matter to rejoice.

President Barack Obama speaks at McCormick Place in Chicago, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, giving his presidential farewell address.

For others, that's a reason to despair.

No matter your feelings about our 44th president's policies,  there can be little reasonable debate that he's leaving office as he entered it — with dignity, with integrity and with hope.

He's also exiting without a legitimate hint of personal scandal, as well as a call to action to every American citizen.

President Obama reinforced his admirable legacy last week during his stirring and unifying farewell speech in Chicago.

The president reminded us of the progress that was made during his administration, including more than six years of continuous job growth, marriage equality, more accessible health care and the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Even more importantly, however, the president told us that he's more hopeful than ever in the American dream, despite our divisive political atmosphere and a president-elect who is the polar opposite of our current president both politically and personally. Progress, he reminded us, doesn't always follow a straight path. Sometimes you take two steps forward and one step back. Over the long sweep of history, however, progress is inevitable.

The president also reminded us that our national progress is dependent upon each of us doing our part.

“It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we've been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours," he said. "Because for all of our outward differences, we all share the same proud title: Citizen. Ultimately, that's what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there's an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.”

Going out with high popularity: Despite the Republican presidential triumph in November, President Obama leaves office with a job approval rating near 60 percent.

In comparison, Congress has a job approval rating under 20 percent and President-elect Donald Trump has a transition approval rating under 45 percent.

Those are just poll numbers of course, and as the recent presidential election proved, poll numbers can sometimes be wrong — very wrong.

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Still, it appears that Obama will leave office with the support of a majority of Americans.

Trump, meanwhile, will enter office needing to convince most Americans that he's qualified to do the job.

Hopefully, he will do just that. A successful Trump administration is in everyone's best interests.

Unfortunately, he's off to a suspect start and he hasn't even taken the oath of office.

Trump's rocky news conference: Just a few days after  Obama's farewell address,  Trump held his first news conference in six months.

It did not go well.

Trump was constantly combative, heaping insults on numerous news operations, even calling one a “failing pile of garbage.” He compared a U.S. Intelligence report to Nazi Germany. He resorted to exaggeration, hyperbole and statements of dubious veracity — and that's being kind. He even seemed to contradict himself during the news conference when talking about possible Russian hacking of Democratic Party emails that may have influenced the outcome of the election.

Of course, to  Trump's supporters, it was a bravura performance. He bashed the hated liberal media, he gave no thought to political correctness and he talked tough about his opponents. It's exactly what they wanted to hear. His voters are demanding change and they believe his take-no-prisoners approach is just what's needed to "drain the Washington swamp."

Time will tell if they are right.

For some of us, however, it only served to remind us what we will miss when President Obama leaves office.

A man of dignity, a man of integrity and a man of hope.

Most importantly, a man who did his best to heal a fractured nation.