A man wearing an Obama shirt takes part in a candlelight vigil outside the United States Consulate in Chiang Mai, Thailand. 49 people were killed after a gunman opened fire on people in a gay nightclub in Orlando
All Times Eastern
10:30AM: President Obama departs the White House
12:30PM: He arrives in Orlando, Florida
1:20PM: President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with families of the victims and also first responders
4:35PM: President Obama departs Orlando
6:40PM: President Obama arrives at the White House
I came of political age during an era of “family values.” I cast my first vote for president of the United States in 2004, the year so-called values voters helped pass laws banning same-sex marriage in 11 states. In the political language of the time, family values meant opposing gay marriage, opposing abortion, opposing stem cell research. Many politicians publicly position themselves as respectable public servants who put God and the traditional family first — especially after President Bill Clinton’s sex scandal in the late ’90s. But over the last seven years, we’ve witnessed a president who showed us what family values really look like, rather than tell us in campaign commercials. In President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, we’ve witnessed a consistent example of mutual love and respect that’s both practical and inspiring.
Both Barack and Michelle have worked hard to strengthen other American families with initiatives that focus on families and children. With Let’s Move!, Michelle Obama put herself and her dance moves out there to encourage parents to make good choices about family health and nutrition. With My Brother’s Keeper, a program launched in 2014, the president made efforts to encourage responsible fatherhood and close opportunity gaps faced by young men of color. And with Let Girls Learn, Michelle took the cause global, stressing that girls’ education is about more than gender equality: it’s essential to economic development. Again, the first couple is putting family values into action. We don’t hear much about family values anymore, but we have seen them on display during the Obama White House. I credit the Obamas and their actions for reminding us what family values really look like.
Long after the last partisan battle has been fought over Obamacare, long after Barack Obama has settled into a comfortable post-presidency, and long after the last joke has been made about some Joe Biden verbal misstep, people will remember the moment when the always-in-control president struggled to control his emotions. They will remember the moment when president and vice president embraced in front of the altar and exchanged heartfelt kisses on the cheek. And they will remember how their hearts ached at this intimate glimpse of one family’s pain. In an age when so many political moments are scripted, this was real. In a country whose presidents and vice presidents have rarely been close, this was genuine closeness. In an administration that prides itself on being hip, this was decidedly old-fashioned love.
The funeral at St. Anthony’s was another highly personal moment for the president. White House aides have often tried to persuade reporters that this president and this vice president have a close bond. Just as often, reporters have voiced skepticism, aware of a two-century history of relationships ranging from open enmity to cool indifference between the men in the White House and their vice presidents. But more than six years into the presidency, it may be time to accept the claims as accurate. Even when Biden has misspoken or jumped the gun on positions, aides insist Obama harbored no anger at the vice president. “That’s just Joe being Joe,” they often say. “It’s part of who he is.” They always appreciated Biden’s loyalty and humanity. Saturday was a chance for the president to return that embrace. How he did it will be hard to forget.