The Orator Unbound

Friday January 20th and Donald J. Trump stands on the steps of the Capitol building. Sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. A man who has used his pulpit to further himself and his beliefs previously unseen in mainstream politics. He is of course not of the mainstream. His entire persona and movement was built on disrupting the status-quo and taking on the establishment. He has not been shackled by the outlandishness of his opinions but been set free. His social media savvy has enabled him to get unprecedented levels of free publicity. He has made himself the conversation unlike any other candidate before him. It’s who’s leaving office though that was the real master of the art.

Barack Obama entered into the Oval Office at the dawn of the real digital media era. He was the first real communicator beyond the newspapers and the tv. The outreach through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram among many others enabled him to cut through the noise, not all the time, but enough of it to connect with people on a level not many politicians ever have. Through every moment of jubilation or heartache.

Be it giving the eulogy for the Honourable Reverend Clementa Pickney after the horrors of Charleston. No President, to my mind, could have sung Amazing Grace and given it such power as he. Through such pain and anguish he gave hope.

“That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible. If we can tap that grace, everything can change.”
President Barack Obama singing Amazing Grace at the Eulogy for The Reverend Clementa Pickney in Charleston, South Carolina. Credit Getty

When he bent over to let a smartly dressed 5-year-old Jacob Philadelphia touch his hair to see if it was the same as his.

President Barack Obama bows to let 5-year-old Jacob Philadelphia touch his head. To see if the President’s hair was the same as his own. Credit Pete Souza/The White House

Or at the White House Easter egg hunt. Doubled over laughing at the young Rosalia Kildee dressed as the Pope.

President Barack Obama bent over laughing the Pope costume of Rosalia Kildee. Credit Andrew Harknik/AP

Or when he danced with 106-year-old Virginia McLaurin during her visit to the White House to celebrate Black History Month.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama dancing with 106-year-old Virginia McLaurin. Credit Lawrence Jackson/The White House

As numerous Buzzfeed lists and millennial debates will attest to, for children and adults alike, he was the cool President. Tiptoeing the razor thin tightrope of being a political figure of universal renown and unmatched public focus through the media lens. He also maintained that human aspect that many politicians seem to lack. He wasn’t the bureaucratic, wooden figure that many people come to associate politicians with.

President Donald Trump will likely continue perplexing reporters, his staff and the world alike with his one reliable characteristic. His unpredictability. His social media presence has risen the question of what is the official line of the President now? Given he might often, and indeed already has, disagreed with his cabinet on various matters of state. Is a tweet from him the official White House line if everyone else says otherwise? What if he contradicts his appointed experts or vice-versa? He’ll no doubt talk a lot but the answer will take some finding. Finding clarity is going to be harder than ever. There is one silver lining though.

The man leaving office is no longer bound by the constraints of it. Liberals and minorities will miss his leadership and fear the changes brought about by the new administration. However, free of the standing of his position we might see the orator unbound. A former president in a digital media age with a following attuned and attentive to his guidance and sagacity as much as his previous title if not more-so. His will be the voice of calm and moderation in the flood of alternative facts to come. A voice of trust in an post-fact society. He has done his time in office. Term limits prohibit him from fulfilling that wish of “Four More years” no matter how many people chant it. The checks and balances decree that his tenure is over. Now he’ll become one of them himself. A dad, a husband, a President, a citizen.

A former president liberated from office is now uniquely positioned to continue defending it. He has his credentials and his approval ratings. He has weathered the storms and is not without his failures in office. But he is gifted with an ability to speak to people that many politicians lack. Out of office he is free to speak his mind. His inability to prevent growing partisanship and build a strong Democratic Party aren’t solely his fault but he will have to lend his expertise in repairing the damage it’s caused.

Friday 20th January is for many going to be the day that hope appears to have left them. Yes we can didn’t happen like anyone had anticipated. The talk instead is of building walls and banning people. Outside of the White House walls Obama will retain his voice. His job is still to lead just from a different pulpit. When they go low, you go high. You have the high ground now Mr Obama. You have your audience. You have your voice. Now you are free to speak your mind. Something we’ll all need in the time without moderation or balance. The political disillusion is easy to see. The heartache of liberals is plain to hear. The sentiment of disbelief is profound and global. He has a unique position leaving office as the first President in the age of social media to truly utilise its outreach to further progress his agenda even post office.

President Donald J. Trump will likely use social media to dominate his the news cycle to progress his ego and his agenda. His self-aggrandisement is unmatched.

No President has had such an opportunity before them as Barack Obama. Primed to potentially to change more outside of his office as a President who used the uniqueness of the digital age to connect with his people and not just of his own country but globally. That job is not over. Outside of the Oval Office and free to speak without the looming threat of approval ratings drops or a congressional opposition Mr Obama has the chance to build his legacy. As a panacea to the actions of President Trump. An alternative figure to the populist and nationalist movements the world over.

The stage is set and now he has a new pulpit to speak from. One with an even more attentive and important congregation. The lost and disheartened need leadership now more than ever. Much like the last 8 years many will be waiting on your word. Now we can really hear him speak. Now the orator truly is unbound. Yes we are. Yes we can. Yes we will. Yes he must.