Commentary: Obama’s final Medal of Freedom ceremony lifts spirits

By Bob Mikulich

Since Nov. 8, I have been followed by a dark cloud of despair and disillusionment.

How could I have stood by the wayside and allowed this to happen in my country? I failed as an American, as a teacher and as a coach. My students and I explored the dangers of bigotry, dictatorships, fascism and hatred in the English and history classes that I taught and on the long bus rides to and from athletic events. I, in turn, learned from them that calculus is a language, physics is the coolest of all courses, who was going to ask whom to homecoming or prom, and occasionally, where the parties were on weekends.

Yesterday however, that dark cloud disappeared briefly, when I returned home from getting my hair cut. My dear wife was watching the Presidential Medals of Freedom being awarded to the Class of 2016 at the White House. I don’t care what one’s political beliefs and values are, this is a must see for all. I have not been able to watch anything remotely political, unless the calls of college and NFL officials are considered such, since Election Day, so I almost headed for the shower. I do painfully peruse Politico, the paper (Everett Herald) and whatever. As the recipients walked in, followed by the President and Mrs. Michelle Obama, I became interested, we recognized the Boss (Bruce Springsteen), Diana Ross, Ellen DeGeneres and Robert Redford to name a few, but who were those other folks? I decided to stick around, but didn’t sit down.

Barak Obama began to talk about this star-studded cast of actors, artists, computer geniuses, entrepreneurs, mathematicians and scientists. I was now riveted and listened in awe — the recipients did too — as the president eloquently discussed the accomplishments of this extraordinary group of 21 Americans. The President’s delivery and timing when speaking are an art form, in and of themselves. The man is articulate, charismatic, intelligent, poised, witty and so much more, as is Michelle Obama. I shall miss them very much, am grateful to them for the dignity and grace with which they served our country and pray that they will continue to be a source of reason in this world.

Throughout the course of his presidency, Barak Obama dealt with a Congress characterized by unprecedented cronyism, hatred and obstructionism, which makes his accomplishments all the more astounding. In the process, his demeanor was dignified, for he simply stayed above it all, with a smile on his face, as he quietly carried out his duties. That day’s ceremony was “Barak at his Best,” he was a superstar among stars and that elite group of recipients was star struck, and by the way I never did sit down.

I wonder what the status of freedom in America will be next year at this time? I wonder who the recipients of the Presidential Medals of Freedom will be? I wonder if I will be watching the presentation? I wonder what the values of next year’s recipients will be? I had a birthday three days ago and was feeling old, but seeing those outstanding individuals, and listening to our president was energizing, and has given me some small semblance of hope and a sense of purpose.

Thank you Mr. President for your wake-up call yesterday, and thank you Molly for your keen sense of concern and inquisitiveness that resulted in that TV being turned on.

I shall not go quietly, Mr. Trump!

Bob Mikulich lives in Snohomish.

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