When President Barack Obama embraced Hillary Clinton at the end of his rousing speech at his last Democratic National Convention as president of the United States, it was a fascinating bookend from 2008 when the then-rivals battled hard to reach an uneasy detente.
"We battled for a year and a half," recalled Obama during his speech Wednesday night. "Let me tell you, it was tough, because Hillary’s tough. Every time I thought I might have that race won, Hillary just came back stronger."
Who would have thought eight years ago that Obama and Clinton would be hugging it out—warmly and all cuddly-like—years after the president once called her "likable enough" during a debate.
Now he seems to like her just fine and wants, very much, for Democratic voters to like her, too—despite the fact that she's facing high unfavorables in the polls.
Obama and Clinton have weathered a lot of storms—from that toughly run 2008 race to Clinton's tenure as secretary of state in the Obama administration. But they have emerged as friends—the first black president passing the baton to the first woman to be presidential nominee of a major American political party.
And as a friend, Obama decided to help Clinton out with a triumphant speech that was one part loving endorsement, one part celebration of America and one part Donald Trump smackdown.
The president went hard in the paint as he went head-on after Trump, a contentious candidate who was most recently in the news for encouraging the Russians (or Chinese; he wasn't picky) to hack Hillary Clinton's emails.
He sized Trump up …
And proceeded to repeatedly knock him out—not with negativity, but with a bounding optimism and love for America.
"America is already great," Obama said. "America is already strong. And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump. In fact, it doesn’t depend on any one person. And that, in the end, may be the biggest difference in this election—the meaning of our democracy."
In his speech, the president contrasted the vision of former President Ronald Reagan, who called America "a shining city on a hill," with Trump's vision of America: "a divided crime scene that only he can fix."
"It doesn’t matter to him that illegal immigration and the crime rate are as low as they’ve been in decades, because he’s not offering any real solutions to those issues. He’s just offering slogans, and he’s offering fear. He’s betting that if he scares enough people, he might score just enough votes to win this election," Obama said.
Obama also called out our would-be dictator-in-chief by saying that Americans "don't look to be ruled."
"Our power comes from those immortal declarations first put to paper right here in Philadelphia all those years ago: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that together, we, the people, can form a more perfect union," Obama said.
For many African Americans—both in the audience during the president's speech and watching at home—this was a bittersweet moment. The speech was good, as many of the president's speeches are, but it was yet another reminder that the president will soon not be the president. Obama, with his scandal-free White House, beautiful family and careful, thoughtful nature, may not have been a perfect president, but for many black Americans, he was ours. We helped shape him, we helped usher him into office and we have continued to support him, giving him approval ratings consistently in the 90s.
And for many of our young children, Obama is the only president they've known, and there is something powerful in our children seeing the leader of the free world as a black man.
Now that his term is winding down, with African-American voters facing a nonchoice and a nonstarter, it's been hard for some to get excited about this presidential race. People say, "I'm with her, I guess," with all the enthusiasm of a recalcitrant child being dragged to school at 7:30 in the morning.
But the Democrats are hoping this convention will change that, that Obama's embrace will transfer some of his likability to Clinton. Both Obamas’—Barack’s and, perhaps even more so, Michelle's—endorsement of the former first lady and senator are crucial to energize would-be Democratic voters still wary of Clinton (or still bitter over Bernie Sanders not going the distance). As the Democrats start to unite, it’s fitting that the president who was once a rival is the one to bring everyone together.