Something about President Obama in the video that surfaced from a gym in Poland this past week struck a chord with me. It was his groggy ordinariness as he peered mouth agape at the dumbbells possibly trying to mentally convert the metric weight measurements into our familiar imperial system. You could tell that he too like many of us was trying hard to drag his body kicking and screaming to do what his mind told him he MUST do – exercise for body and sanity’s sake. President Obama is no superhuman. The grimace on his face as he performed his routine in the gym told us that. Like us, he’d rather be doing something else. Mortal. Aging body.
The difference? He stuck with and plodded through his mission in the gym. No fanfare. No frills. Just keeping body and bloodstream functioning. Thirty minutes, we’re told he stayed there. Then next, he was suit-clad meeting European leaders. Meanwhile, all hell was breaking loose back stateside with GOP wingnut feral dogs viciously hounding a POW’s family with death threats, and an “all American” hometown into canceling a soldier’s homecoming celebration. A fashionably cynical postmodern schlock might probably find some grizzly irony in the juxtaposition of dumbbells gripped by a President’s sweaty hands in a Polish gym, and celebration buntings for a soldier’s return hurriedly torn down in an Idaho town scurrying into hiding as it is gripped by fear of the frightwing mob.
This is our globalized world now of instantaneous communication, of a cacophony of events, vignettes and frozen images, of picture-snapping presidential oglers, and armed lynchmobs prowling for blood who’ve been set loose by hate-jocks saturating our airwaves — all jostling for our attention. All at once.
How does one stay true to a moral compass in the midst of this din, and extremes? How does one exercise strategic restraint in the face of blatant rightwing provocation? Difficult of all, how does one do all that AS LEADER of a diverse nation whose only glue is the pledge of CITIZENSHIP and creed – “all men (and women) are created equal”?
In the run-up to the 2008 election, when so much hyperbole and thrills were running up some media legs (nothing sincere except to milk the rising African American political whiz for ratings gold), Candidate Obama modestly saw himself as a “transitional leader”. What did he mean? Few paid attention at the time, yet the clues lie in his book “Audacity of Hope” in which he described America reaching critical crossroads at which she either soars or fragments. To set this country soaring, Obama believed the toxic gunk that had trapped our nation in a thicket of policy, structural, and ideological dysfunction needed to be cleaned out. His Mama had taught him that when you see a problem you tackle it and not wait for someone else to solve it.
White House: Presidential Proclamation — Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, And Transgender Pride Month, 2014
LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PRIDE MONTH, 2014
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
As progress spreads from State to State, as justice is delivered in the courtroom, and as more of our fellow Americans are treated with dignity and respect — our Nation becomes not only more accepting, but more equal as well. During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, we celebrate victories that have affirmed freedom and fairness, and we recommit ourselves to completing the work that remains.
Last year, supporters of equality celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, a ruling which, at long last, gave loving, committed families the respect and legal protections they deserve. In keeping with this decision, my Administration is extending family and spousal benefits — from immigration benefits to military family benefits — to legally married same-sex couples.
My Administration proudly stands alongside all those who fight for LGBT rights. Here at home, we have strengthened laws against violence toward LGBT Americans, taken action to prevent bullying and harassment, and prohibited discrimination in housing and hospitals. Despite this progress, LGBT workers in too many States can be fired just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; I continue to call on the Congress to correct this injustice by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. And in the years ahead, we will remain dedicated to addressing health disparities within the LGBT community by implementing the Affordable Care Act and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy — which focuses on improving care while decreasing HIV transmission rates among communities most at risk.
Our commitment to advancing equality for the LGBT community extends far beyond our borders. In many places around the globe, LGBT people face persecution, arrest, or even state-sponsored execution. This is unacceptable. The United States calls on every nation to join us in defending the universal human rights of our LGBT brothers and sisters.
This month, as we mark 45 years since the patrons of the Stonewall Inn defied an unjust policy and awakened a nascent movement, let us honor every brave leader who stood up, sat in, and came out, as well as the allies who supported them along the way. Following their example, let each of us speak for tolerance, justice, and dignity — because if hearts and minds continue to change over time, laws will too.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2014 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.