By Becky Brice
Last night I went to see ‘The Final Year’, a documentary following the Obama administration during their last year in office. The film focuses on the team in charge of foreign policy and the projects they were working on during that final year. It’s a rollercoaster ride where humour is interspersed with disappointment, and where optimism is shattered by a gut-wrenching end.
As we walked out there was a feeling of both defeat and inspiration. The three people it followed primarily were Samantha Power, John Kerry and Ben Rhodes. They were intelligent, thoughtful and highly qualified for their jobs, so to think of the new occupants of their desks is disheartening, to say the least. It made me question ‘if they can’t sort everything out, who can?’ I’ve always assumed that with the right person at the helm, with the best intentions, that things would work themselves out. However, it seems bureaucracy and prejudice are bigger forces. External events shift the plan and make things even more complex.
Alongside shortcomings are the massive achievements made. These though seem to go unnoticed by the critics. When people’s lives are the chess pieces you’re playing with, I can understand why every move is dissected, every defeat analysed, it’s only natural. However, I do think that the wins should be acknowledged and celebrated as well. On a personal level, the idea that nothing would have been good enough is really sad and could send me into a ‘what’s the point’ spiral. If, in my opinion, the best people still face widespread criticism, there’s really no hope for the rest of us.
But I didn’t want to come out of this film defeated, and so on that note, I’ll get on with inspiration.
I think Obama and his team are amongst the most inspirational people out there. Not only do they work immensely hard to bring about positive change, they do it without ego or self-gratification. In every industry, there are successful people who think this success propels them to a higher standing. I’ve met a number of them and although at first, they are intimidating, inevitably I come away feeling indifferent to them or their cause. Watching people who have achieved ‘greatness’ and are still genuinely kind and insightful gives me a warm fuzzy feeling like nothing else.
The film ended talking about how, as much as the world looks and feels scary at the moment, it’s the best time to be alive, so far anyway. While history zigs and zags, “the trendlines, ultimately, will be in the direction of a less violent, more empathetic, more generous world.” Although the temptation is to give up when you watch the news, become down beaten when things go wrong, this last section is what I’m choosing to take away. If we all try to make things better, however people on the sidelines yell and scream, eventually, the trajectory will continue towards what Obama describes above. In theory that is…
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