I've never been a fan of politics. I've always made conscientious decisions when I vote and engaged in discussions about challenges facing society, but the world of politics itself has always been a turn off. The partisan bickering, the power of expensive lobbyists to sway leaders who are supposed to work for the people, the mudslinging and inherently divisive nature of our two-party system—it's all just felt gross to me.
The office of the presidency, oddly enough, has not felt that way. Though a president brings their partisanship with them, of course, the office itself is non-partisan. The fact that it is a job held by a single individual has always humanized it for me, prompting me to feel some sympathy even for presidents I wasn't a fan of. "President of the United States" is an inarguably difficult position to be in, with impossibly hard choices to make. When unexpected crises land in your lap—the world's worst terrorist attack, a classroom full of first graders gunned down, the arrival of a global pandemic—it's your responsibility to handle it with care and wisdom. Every decision you make will be examined through the lens of history. Every statement you make becomes historical record. That's no small thing.
The weight of the office is unmatched in our country, and the status of the U.S. as a superpower makes it unlike any other position in the world. Everything U.S. presidents do and say matters, not just to Americans, but to people and governments all over the world.
Up until four years ago, I felt like every president understood that.
For some beautiful proof, consider this story of President-elect Obama's asking President Bush if he could meet the former presidents during his transition. A Facebook post from Sebastian Copeland shared an excerpt from Jean Edward Smith's biography of George W. Bush that reads:
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