As Mr. Obama strolled past the cameras, he oozed charm, turning it up full volume. He seemed to take adulation as his due and did his best to soak up as much of it as possible.
With the finesse of the best Hollywood actors he seemed to know exactly where the cameras were at every moment; when to smile and nod, to be “spontaneous”, shake hands with children and say exactly the right words…
Watching this, my thoughts kept returning to the election and inauguration of the new Pope Francis. What a contrast.
Pope Francis took on a position where adulation of the (Catholic) masses actually is his due. The Pope has enormous leverage of pomp and circumstance at the tips of his fingers, traditionally used to awe and inspire. Instead of using any of this, Pope Francis (who chose the name to signify the direction he wanted to take) told the world that real power comes from humility. And love.
Pope Francis asked the people to pray for HIM. And he told them that it is up to the people to take care of each other. To be tender and loving. This is the way to change the world for the better…
Mr. Obama has told the American people that they should look at how much their neighbors have. Neighbors who have “too much” are the source of their financial problems. Love thy neighbor vs. hate thy neighbor – be jealous of your neighbor and covet what they own.
Pope Francis told the people that the way to mend the woes of the world is to take personal responsibility, be loving and tender to others. And then he chose – instead of riding in the traditional Pope-mobile to keep him safe from the people, he walked amongst them, blessing babies and kissing the sick. He brought joy to others simply by practicing what he preached.
Mr. Obama who was sworn to protect and defend the Constitution has done everything in his power to change it. The Commander in Chief of the army who “leaves no man behind” went to bed as his Ambassador was being murdered. Agents who wanted to rush in to save the Ambassador were given the stand down order. Heroically they ran to the rescue, tragically they too were murdered. That was when Obama sent his representatives to the American public and to the bereaved families, saying they didn’t know what had happened, that it was the fault of a video, that they would “get” the people who were responsible.
Arrogant and cruel but – they got away with it. The American people ignored substance and voted for charm, for celebrity.
The inauguration of the most powerful man in the Christian world could have been an excellent photo opportunity but politicians were not invited. Pope Francis invited the leaders of the Jewish community. Spiritual leaders. Leaders of a different faith but with the same underlying belief in mutual respect, acceptance and the power of love.
Mr. Obama came to Israel to tell us that we should “be considerate of Palestinians who want a State”. According to him, we should make peace and then everything here will be ok. He poured on the charm and then told us that we are the problem. He spoke like a grown up explaining the facts to a petulant child, saying that he knows that there are terrorists. He knows that Israelis live under a constant existential threat. He knows there are people who want to wipe us off the face of the earth BUT it is up to us to make peace. For our own good.
Mr. Obama is the biggest celebrity on the planet today. His charm is his superpower. Facts are his kryptonite. But who notices facts? Who remembers? Who cares?
I never could have imagined that one day I would look wish that the “Leader of the Free World” would be a bit more like the leader of the Catholic world.
There is great power in humility and love but there has to be enough of it to make a difference. Enough people have to care, to choose content over image, humility over celebrity.