The subject of the POTUS was not at the forefront of everyone’s mind with the Dallas Cowboys these days, but when Barack Obama delivered his farewell speech this week more than a few players noticed.
For the majority of the Dallas Cowboys players, and most NFLers, too - this was a big deal. For the obvious reason.
“It was special. To see ... I guy that looks like you to be in that position,” Cowboys linebacker Justin Durant told me this week. “I appreciated all of what he did, and how he conducted himself. Especially for my daughter - to see that anything is possible.”
In the next week Obama’s legacy will be debated, cherished and destroyed. Ultimately history will evaluate and judge the strengths and weaknesses of his presidency, which normally is a no-win proposition.
To assess any presidency takes roughly a decade; for instance, when Harry Truman left office in 1953 he was pretty much kicked to the curb as a one-note, liberal joke. Today, Truman is regarded as a fine president.
Like any President, Obama was full of empty promises (Guantanamo Bay) and failed action; his white flag over the current vacant Supreme Court justice opening is astonishing.
Whether you lean left or right, however, at a minimum what Obama did was prove to every American that a black man could earn this nation’s highest office. That he could do this job. That is neither a liberal or conservative bent - that’s a win for America.
“For a lot of people, it was a racial thing,” Cowboys receiver/returner Lucky Whitehead said. “For us African-Americans, it was great to see another African-American in the White House. He might not have done it the way people could agree on, but he did it. He did his job. I would say his (legacy to black people) is to not limit yourself - that it can be done.”
Even in his concession speech in 2008, GOP candidate John McCain admitted that “Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country.”
McCain said, “I've always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Sen. Obama believes that, too. But we both recognize that though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation's reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.”
That a nation that born on the myth of equality, as penned by a bunch of white men (the Founding Fathers) who were too afraid to to abolish slavery, after 200 years has its example of “all men are created equal” in Obama.
America’s history has no greater shame than slavery. In 1998, I visited the Checkpoint Charlie Museum in Berlin; it’s the famous U.S. military post at the dividing line between East and West Berlin.
Near the end of the museum are other examples of civil rights atrocities throughout the history of the world. There on the wall were pictures of racial unrest in Alabama in the 1960s. As an American standing in a museum in Germany, it was embarrassing to see pictures of America next to the South Africa’s apartheid, orchestrated murders by Cambodian leader Pol Pot, or the Gulag’s of Joseph Stalin.
Nothing can erase history, but at a minimum the election of Obama proved America, however narrow, has a new path. There is a new picture.
“I just thought that a white president was the norm, to be honest,” Durant said. “I was not sure this was possible even when he won the democratic nomination the first time. I thought, ‘I don’t think this is going to happen.’ Then it happened. It’s special.”
Even if you loathed Obama’s policies or agenda, we can all agree for the sake of the history of the United States it’s good that he proved this much was indeed possible.