A Tale of Two Presidential Vacations

“Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking” is an aphorism from author H. Jackson Brown, Jr.  Much of the life of an American president is public, yet much is not.  The true character of the president may be revealed during moments away from the television cameras and news reporters.

President George W. Bush and his wife Laura “[n]ever left Washington, D.C., until the day after Christmas,” writes former White House reporter Joseph Curl.  The reason was simple.  A low-level White House staffer explained, “So all of us can be with our families on Christmas.”  The “us” meant hundreds of staffers, police, Secret Service agents, and reporters who move with the president.

President Obama and his family, in contrast, begin their Christmas vacation well before Christmas.  His large entourage follows, most of them leaving their families behind to celebrate Christmas without them.  Sure, Waikiki Beach is nice, but who wouldn’t rather be home with their families, at least for Christmas Day?

A pair of Army captains scheduled to be married on the Marine Corps base golf course had to move their wedding at the last minute.  The ceremony was planned for the 16th hole, a spot known for its beautiful views.  But the golfer-in-chief had to play through, forcing them to move their wedding, scheduled for the next day.  At least the president called the couple to congratulate them and apologize, but weren’t there other options?  How about a golf lesson and some time on the range?  Another golf course?  A good book on the beach?  Hanging out with his family?

These are the small things that demonstrate character.  Or lack thereof.  Thinking of others versus thinking of oneself.  Minor gestures offered away from the glare of the cameras and microphones.  How especially relevant at Christmas, when God came to the world as a humble servant, not as an all-powerful majestic being.  Our all-powerful leaders should heed this example.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver-based physician, is an advocate of smaller, more efficient government.  Twitter @retinaldoctor.

“Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking” is an aphorism from author H. Jackson Brown, Jr.  Much of the life of an American president is public, yet much is not.  The true character of the president may be revealed during moments away from the television cameras and news reporters.

President George W. Bush and his wife Laura “[n]ever left Washington, D.C., until the day after Christmas,” writes former White House reporter Joseph Curl.  The reason was simple.  A low-level White House staffer explained, “So all of us can be with our families on Christmas.”  The “us” meant hundreds of staffers, police, Secret Service agents, and reporters who move with the president.

President Obama and his family, in contrast, begin their Christmas vacation well before Christmas.  His large entourage follows, most of them leaving their families behind to celebrate Christmas without them.  Sure, Waikiki Beach is nice, but who wouldn’t rather be home with their families, at least for Christmas Day?

A pair of Army captains scheduled to be married on the Marine Corps base golf course had to move their wedding at the last minute.  The ceremony was planned for the 16th hole, a spot known for its beautiful views.  But the golfer-in-chief had to play through, forcing them to move their wedding, scheduled for the next day.  At least the president called the couple to congratulate them and apologize, but weren’t there other options?  How about a golf lesson and some time on the range?  Another golf course?  A good book on the beach?  Hanging out with his family?

These are the small things that demonstrate character.  Or lack thereof.  Thinking of others versus thinking of oneself.  Minor gestures offered away from the glare of the cameras and microphones.  How especially relevant at Christmas, when God came to the world as a humble servant, not as an all-powerful majestic being.  Our all-powerful leaders should heed this example.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver-based physician, is an advocate of smaller, more efficient government.  Twitter @retinaldoctor.