After months of cautioning American voters against succumbing to divisive rhetoric, President Obama has now stepped into the role of Consoler-in-Chief as those who banked on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to continue his legacy come to terms with the election results.
In an article in The New Yorker by David Remnick, Obama struck a diplomatic tone on the upcoming Trump presidency and calmly reflected on the presidential race. It was the same composure Obama exuded in the days following the election, saying in Germany that he was "cautiously optimistic" about a President Trump.
For those who seemed baffled or suspicious by his poise at the nation's choice for president-elect — a man whom he's called "temperamentally unfit" to be president — Obama explained that the optimism he's expressed as president is real. "It's what I teach my daughters. It is how I interact with my friends and with strangers. I genuinely do not assume the worst, because I've seen the best so often," he said.
"So it is a mistake that I think people have sometimes made to think that I'm just constantly biting my tongue and there's this sort of roiling anger underneath the calm Hawaiian exterior. I'm not that good of an actor," Obama continued. "I was born to a white mother, raised by a white mom and grandparents who loved me deeply. I've had extraordinarily close relationships with friends that have lasted decades. I was elected twice by the majority of the American people. Every day, I interact with people of good will everywhere."
But what of the reports of the recent spate of hate crimes? When asked how he spoke to his daughters about the election and the racial incidents since, Obama said:
What I say to them is that people are complicated. Societies and cultures are really complicated. ... This is not mathematics; this is biology and chemistry. These are living organisms, and it's messy.And your job as a citizen and as a decent human being is to constantly affirm and lift up and fight for treating people with kindness and respect and understanding. And you should anticipate that at any given moment there's going to be flare-ups of bigotry that you may have to confront, or may be inside you and you have to vanquish. And it doesn't stop.
He also echoed Clinton's speech at the Children's Defense Fund event, her first public appearance since her concession speech. Clinton conceded that appearing at the gala wasn't easy for her. "There have been a few times this past week when all I wanted to do is just to curl up with a good book, or our dogs, and never leave the house again," she told the audience, but urged her supporters to keep fighting, because America was "worth it."
Speaking to Remnick about how to react to Trump's unexpected victory, Obama reiterated the push to persevere:
You don't get into a fetal position about it. You don't start worrying about apocalypse. You say, OK, where are the places where I can push to keep it moving forward?