From Obama to Trump: Dr. Jill Biden’s Remarks Got Me Thinking…

Barack and Michelle Obama’s return to the White House for the unveiling of their portraits was a joyous occasion. It was also evocative in any number of ways—most notably, a reminder of the importance of peaceful rituals involving the transfer of power.

If you haven’t seen any of the coverage, I’ve included above the only brief video I could find.

And if you have more time, here are links to the entire event and a transcript of the remarks. I recommend viewing the celebration, which entertained, inspired, and comforted me.

I found the comments by President Biden, former President Obama, and especially former First Lady Michelle Obama extremely meaningful. But our current First Lady’s remarks stayed with me.

She spoke last, closing the presentation. In her reminiscences, she captured—and reignited—the joy, promise, and hope that so many millions of Americans felt when Obama was elected.

Some may have found her remarks disturbingly naive—even discordant—as they depicted a time so vastly different from today. But to me, that was their value.

“Fourteen years ago — fourteen years ago, Michelle — on a cool night in November, a sea of people gathered in Grant Park to be a part of history.  There was laughter and music and dancing.

“There were tears as friends and strangers alike held each other, overwhelmed with the joy that hope and change had been realized.  The crowd roared, radiating the sense that anything we could dream was within our reach…

“That night, your family connected us all.  And our family — the Obama-Biden team, every one of you who were ‘fired up and ready to go’ — together we changed the course of this country forever.

“And when I look at these portraits, I see family — your family, the family we all built, and the families across America that we served together.  I see love, joy, and fellowship.  And we are honored to hang them today and share them with the world.”

I am well aware that the despicable white nationalism that threatens our country today was fueled by the historic Obama Presidency, when the brilliant and gifted couple and their two darling daughters ascended to the White House. And I recall the awful racism that the magnificent Michelle Obama withstood with unerring grace.

But I can’t help recalling as well that there were more than a few Americans who voted for Obama—not once, but twice—and then voted for that awful man who declined to invite them to have their portraits unveiled. (And wow, do I hope there’s some way to prevent portraits of him and his wife from ever reaching those hallowed walls!)

Knowing all she knows, and having experienced the worst of America, Michelle Obama—like Jill Biden—stressed unity in her remarks.

She noted that this portrait ceremony “is a reminder that there’s a place for everyone in this country.

“Because as Barack said, if the two of us can end up on the walls of the most famous address in the world, then, again, it is so important for every young kid who is doubting themselves to believe that they can, too.

“That is what this country is about.  It’s not about blood or pedigree or wealth.  It’s a place where everyone should have a fair shot, whether you’re a kid taking two buses and a train just to get to school; or a single mother who is working two jobs to put some food on the table; or an immigrant just arriving, getting your first apartment, forging a future for yourself in a place you dreamed of.

“That’s why, for me, this day isn’t about me or Barack.  It’s not even about these beautiful paintings.  It’s about telling that fuller story — a story that includes every single American in every single corner of this country so that our kids and grandkids can see something more for themselves.

“And as much as some folks might want us to believe that that story has lost some of its shine, that division and discrimination and everything else might have dimmed its light, I still know deep in my heart that what we share — as my husband continues to say — is so much bigger than what we don’t.  Our democracy is so much stronger than our differences. 

“And this little girl from the South Side is blessed beyond measure to have felt the truth of that fuller story throughout her entire life, never more so than today.

The haters and the destroyers have had far too big a megaphone in this country. Some say they represent no more than thirty percent of Americans. Even if that’s optimistic, they certainly don’t represent the majority.

We mustn’t let the cowards who refuse to denounce them seize control. There were reasons for the “magic” that Jill Biden said the Obamas brought to the White House. They brought out the best in us.

We honor them—and the decent, kind, and loving Bidens—and our own futures by remembering the feelings we had then, knowing those feelings were real and true and were held not only by us, but also by many whom we may now regard as lost.

Annie

26 thoughts on “From Obama to Trump: Dr. Jill Biden’s Remarks Got Me Thinking…

    1. We don’t even know the depth of his depravity at this point, Neil. If his favorite judge is shamed into modifying or reversing her lawless rulings, and he finally faces justice, what will he do? The mind reels…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s too awful to even ponder.

      Joni, I know you’ve expressed ambivalence, but I want to offer my sincere sympathy about Queen Elizabeth’s passing. She was a remarkable, selfless woman and a stabilizing force through some dark times.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Annie! It is very sad, for the family and the nation, and of course it makes me worry for my mother who is the same age as time eventually runs out for everyone. They have not said, but I hope she died peacefully in her sleep. It was very quick anyway. I think they were waiting on Harry to arrive before they made the announcement around noon. I agree – we will not see many more of her kind. My ambivalence had more to do with the monarchy itself, than the Queen. Everyone loves and respects the Queen, but certainly there is not the reverence for the monarchy or her descendants here that existed when I was in grade school and we sang God Save the Queen in class. The media is already speculating about how many commonwealth countries will cut their ties eventually. Charles and Camilia visited here last year and it barely caused a ripple, other than the usual grumblings about the cost of feting them on tax papers money.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks, Joni. I understood that your ambivalence had more to do with the monarchy. I think that’s been underscored in all the commentary I’ve heard. One clever person noted that Americans love the pomp because we don’t have to pay for it.

        It will be interesting to see what happens to the monarchy under Charles.

        It certainly seems the Queen had a quick and peaceful death. There she was two days ago, smiling at the new PM.

        I should have realized that you feel a special linkage now through your mom. Hold her close. I feel as though she’s my friend’s special, very talented mom.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Beautiful post, Annie. I don’t know what direction this country will take over the next ten years or so, but if we look around, it certainly seems to be on the wrong path … a path blazoned, as you note, by a minority of the people in the nation. A path that can only lead to disaster as we travel backward, not forward, in time. The Obamas left a wonderful legacy filled with hope for a brighter, more compassionate future … I hope we can find our way to fulfilling those hopes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jill. It’s really very much the future in Joe Biden’s vision as well, and we’ve made meaningful steps toward it legislatively. So I’m hoping that anger—an emotion usually associated with those who’d push us backward—will this November propel hordes of people motivated by an overreaching Supreme Court and Republican lawmakers to carry us forward.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hope so too, my friend, but the hate, resentment and anger is leading this nation down a dark path and I don’t know, even if we elect more sensible people into high offices, that it will help diffuse that anger. I don’t know what can or will reduce the vitriol that is so destructive. But, I do hope the elections will have what you and I would see as a positive outcome … it’s a start, anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a great reunion for sure. As to the “utter lack of class,” one of the legal commentators discussing the likely theft of nuclear secrets said his thesaurus has run out of descriptive options!

      Matthew, I’m thinking about all my UK blogging friends. The Queen was simply a remarkable woman—selfless and devoted, but also full of fun. One reminiscence I heard today concerned her going for a helicopter ride with Sean Connery. Politics aside, she leaves a rich legacy, and I find it difficult to imagine the world without her.

      Like

      1. I think, despite what you might read on social media, it really is a mixed bag. Plenty of people will be lining the streets near Balmoral and Edinburgh to pay their respects, if not to the institution then to the woman. Likewise, there are plenty of ‘soft’ republicans (such as me, despite being born in England) who see the Royal family as rather anachronistic and even antidemocratic, see https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/jul/14/queen-immunity-british-laws-private-property

        Whilst I have huge respect for the woman, I’m not sure this kind of interference or obsequious behaviour is healthy. My impression is that most people in the UK think otherwise than me, however!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m not at all surprised to learn your views, Matthew—and they certainly seem right to me. That Guardian article was a surprise, however, as was the extent of her private businesses. So interesting to see the statement “no one should be above the law” applied to the Queen (and her successor) following the recitation of the many ways that was/is precisely the case. It’s a phrase that you know is resonating here in reference to the biggest crimes imaginable by the biggest criminal ever to reach the presidency.

        Thank you. It will be interesting to see if the changes in the monarchy include addressing these inequities.

        Liked by 1 person

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