By Luis Faveron
“Change is coming to America.” “Make America Great Again.” Two men; two different agendas. This paper compares excerpts from former president Barack Obama and his predecessor Donald J. Trump in their national addresses to a joint session of Congress. We will explore the important qualities of leadership expected of a U.S. president by focusing on three important leadership factors: following through on promises, the importance of military strength, and the capacity for empathy.
When Obama took office in 2009 he was America’s hero. The first black president to be elected in American history. He popularized the slogan “Change is coming to America,” to which his followers chanted, “Yes we Can.” Many commentators noted that Obama almost sounded like the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. when he delivered certain speeches. He was America’s hope for the future in a nation that was facing recession; Americans were losing their homes, their employment, and their retirement savings. In his address to Congress, Obama promised to bring change by putting Americans back to work, investing in clean and renewable energy, education, and health care: “Now is the time to act boldly and wisely- to not only revive the economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart creation, re-start lending, and investing in areas like clean energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring the deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do,” Based on unconfirmed web data and statements said to have been made by the then president elect Trump, the national debt has doubled in the Obama administration. Fast forwarding to 2017, our nation’s national debt according to usgovernmentdebt.us stands at 19+ trillion dollars. Despite the rhetoric, Obama was not able to deliver on his promise to “jump-start the economy” And lower the national debt.
On June 6, 2009 Obama also conducted a weekly address where he also made promises regarding the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it. If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too. The only change you’ll see are falling costs as our reforms take hold.” This statement was also false as many of Americans were obligated to switch their doctors to “in network providers.” It is interesting to see how a politician regardless of his political affiliation will say anything to accomplish a favorable outcome. My view is that President Obama Failed to keep the promises he made even if his intentions were good and he really tried to accomplish what he proposed.
Like Obama, Donald Trump also ran a campaign which focused on change. Trump’s slogan “Make American Great Again,” interestingly outlined some of the very promises Obama made in his first Congressional address in 2009. “Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know that you don’t either. It is time for America to lead again.” Trump also promised to put Americans back to work, bring jobs back from overseas, and also level the playing field with regard to trade. With less then one-hundred days in office it is impossible to determine if Trump will be able to deliver on his promises. I would however like to emphasize that so far he has been focused on delivering on the key things that he promised on his campaign. Trump reiterated the promise to bring jobs back to American soil in his. speech to Congress. “Since my election, Ford Fiat-Chrysler, General Motors, Sprint, Softbank, Lockheed, Intel, Walmart, and many others have announced that they will invest billions of dollars in the United States which will create tens of thousands of new Jobs.” Trump also promised to secure the borders by building a wall between the United States and Mexico. According to a archive by Covington & Burning LLP, the proposed border wall design is moving forward. “On Friday, February 24, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection published a pre-solicitation notice announcing its intent to issue a solicitation for the design and build of several prototype wall structures in the vicinity of the United States border with Mexico. At least on the government procurement front, this notice marks the most concrete indication of the federal government’s intent to construct a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.” These are clear indications that Mr. Trump is working on the promises that he made to the American people at the campaign trail. Although both Donald Trump and Barack Obama focused on change, it is clear to see that each president felt change was necessary in their own way. Their very different views on “change” also reflects on how each of the two men interpreted the importance of our military power and defense. Our military and defense was another sharp contrast between the two presidents.
Barack Obama cut the defense budget while Donald Trump promised to strengthen it. In his Congressional speech Obama outlined the three most important areas that his administration would focused on. “We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril, and claimed opportunity from ordeal. Now we must be that nation again. That is why, even as it cuts back on the programs we don’t need, the budget I submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future: energy, health care, and education.” While I agree that each of the areas mentioned were important to jump start the economy, military funding should have been equally as important to the Obama administration. A strong military keeps us safe and also serves as a deterrent for other nations that want to do us harm.
Donald Trump on the other hand has asked Congress to increase the defense budget by cutting, decreasing, or canceling Obama’s environmental programs. As Trump finalized his speech to Congress he said the following: “I am sending Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the defense sequester, and calls for one of the larges increases in national defense spending in American history.” Of course many may object that “the largest defense spending in American history” at a time when America is still trying to recover from a national debt crisis is a bit outlandish. However, I still maintain that the military and Americas ability to protect and defend our interests is crucial to our place in the world as a superpower.
Lastly, A great leader should also be empathetic to his people. I believe that there is a clear distinction between Donald Trump and Barack Obama here. Empathy is not defined by words read on a script but rather the actual the ability to genuinely show it. One of the most memorable moments was when on December 14, 2012, the day when twenty innocent children in Sandy-hook Connecticut were massacred in their own school. It was the first time that I witnessed a U.S. president weep on national television while he delivered his address. “This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter and we’ll tell them that we love them, and we’ll remind each other how deeply we love one another. But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight. And they need all of us right now. In the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans. And I will do everything in my power as President to help”; Those were the heartfelt words of a truly empathetic leader at a time of vulnerability. Obama assured the families effected by this tragedy that the American people were with them in their sorrow.
I personally can’t see empathy from Donald Trump. A man that stands in front of a podium in his first presidential debate and responds “ Only Rosie O’Donald” when moderator Megan Kelly said, “You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.” Trumps derogatory comments were also questioned in the vice-presidential debate on October 4, 2016, when vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine stated: “Donald Trump always puts himself first. He built a business career, in the words of one of his own campaign staffers, “off the backs of the little guy.” And as a candidate, he started his campaign with a speech where he called Mexicans rapists and criminals, and he has pursued the discredited and really outrageous lie that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States.” In addition, the North Dakota pipeline project is yet another example of Donald Trump’s lack of empathy and business driven mindset. “President Donald Trump signed executive actions to advance approval of this pipeline and others, casting aside efforts by President Barack Obama’s administration to block construction.” The pipeline is moving forward despite opposition from different Native-Americans tribes and environmentalist claiming that the proposed project would pollute the tribes only source of drinking water. Trump has lied on national television claiming that there has been no opposition of the project. It is my belief that Trump is only focused on the 470,000 barrels of crude oil that the pipeline can transport daily.
In conclusion, despite the many differences and similarities that both former president Obama and current President Trump share on policy. It is safe to conclude by saying that Trump is taking the promises that he made to the American people serious and is trying to act to fulfill them. Trump is also likely to strengthen our military by directing funding to defense as apposed to the former Obama administration. However, with regard to empathy, history has shown us that Obama has been very empathetic to his people and has displayed true leadership skills. Donald Trump has not showed this through his life nor through his campaign. He’s actually showed the opposite. I doubt that this will change and in my personal opinion, Trump has large shoes to fill when compared to Obama on morals and being empathetic to the American people.