picture of President Obama at the World Bank
Barack Obama’s election in 2008 was largely in response to Bush era misconduct.
He ran on a platform of Hope and Change — a promise to restore the rule of law, respect civil liberties, and mend relations with the international community.
Since his election, Obama has abandoned most of his 2008 promises. Rather than challenging the establishment, he has been co-opted by it or worse yet, always was a part of it. Most recently this has been evidenced by his lobbying effort on behalf of the NSA, beating the drums of war against Syria, and his proposal to appoint the discredited Larry Summers as president of the Federal Reserve Bank.
It is now appears that Obama is following the dictates of Wall Street, and the National Security/Military establishment. In doing so, he has abandoned any sense of leadership or concern for average citizens, if he ever had any. Obama seems oblivious to the legacy he is creating or simply uninterested.
Like Barack Obama, Pope Francis was an improbable choice for Pope. He is the first Latin American Pope in the history of the Catholic Church. Like Obama, his selection was in response to troubles within the Catholic Church.
Since his selection as Pope in March 2013, Francis has hit the ground running, exhibiting strong moral leadership, leading by example, and carefully crafting his legacy. For example, right after his selection as Pope, Francis rode the bus back to his hotel, picked up his own bags and paid his own hotel bill (http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Latest-News-Wires/2013/0314/Pope-pays-hotel-bill-Pope-Francis-sheds-luxuries-of-previous-popes/(page)/2).
Days later, as part of a Holy Week Mass, Pope Francis washed the feet of a dozen youth inmates at a Rome detention facility (http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/28/world/europe/vatican-pope).
Recently, Francis appointed a Monsignor to the Vatican bank who openly lived with his gay partner in Uruguay (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/21/gay-scandal-pope-francis-judgment).
Demonstrating fearless leadership, recently he also stated:
“Who am I to judge gay people?” (http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/07/29/19751976-pope-who-am-i-to-judge-gay-people).
On his latest trip to Brazil, the Pope visited a Favela (slum) where he spoke out against income inequality. It is estimated 3 million people went to see him at a mass at Copacabana Beach (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/25/pope-francis-inequality-brazilian-slum).
What the Pope can teach the President
Except for a few leaders of small Latin American nations, we are living in a time where the world is more or less devoid of any moral leadership. World leaders demonstrate their fealty to international banks and transnational corporations, rather than to citizens they claim they represent. In a few short months, Pope Francis has stood out as the one major world leader demonstrating any moral leadership.
Pope Francis’ leadership is in stark contrast to the failed leadership of Barack Obama. While Francis leads by example, Obama seems caught up with the trappings of power and more comfortable taking orders from a corrupt establishment and ‘washing the feet’ of the ruling class. Francis seems acutely conscious of the legacy he is creating, while Obama is inexplicably oblivious to his legacy or as said, impervious.
The Obama legacy now includes: torture (by force feeding) of Guantanamo detainees, advocating for the continued spying on American citizens by the NSA, mass deportations of undocumented individuals, drone killings persecuting journalists and political activists and……… well you fill in the blanks.
It should not be lost on Mr. Obama that his stature as a world leader is on the decline, while that of Pope Francis is on the ascendency. That Mr. Obama is now loathed and resented, while Francis has become beloved and admired in a few short months, is telling.
It is not too late for Obama to rescue his legacy. To do so, Obama could to look to Pope Francis as a role model before his acrid time on the world stage winds down. What the Pope can teach the President is the importance of leading by example, the need to enunciate a moral vision, respect for ordinary people, and the power of humility. However, it is humility that is needed for any moral education and it is doubtful that Obama has this necessary moral disposition.