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When I told Obama that I thought Trump’s candidacy was an explicit reaction to the fact of a black president, he said he could see that, but then enumerated other explanations.When assessing Trump’s chances, he was direct: He couldn’t win. The speech that launched his rise, the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, emerged right from this logic.This assessment was born out of the president’s innate optimism and unwavering faith in the ultimate wisdom of the American people—the same traits that had propelled his unlikely five-year ascent from assemblyman in the Illinois state legislature to U. He addressed himself to his “fellow Americans, Democrats, Republicans, independents,” all of whom, he insisted, were more united than they had been led to believe.America was home to devout worshippers and Little League coaches in blue states, civil libertarians and “gay friends” in red states.These were not like press conferences—the president would speak in depth and with great familiarity about a range of subjects. He talked about the brilliance of Le Bron James and Stephen Curry—not as basketball talents but as grounded individuals.Once, I watched him effortlessly reply to queries covering everything from electoral politics to the American economy to environmental policy. I thought of George Foreman, who once booked an exhibition with multiple opponents in which he pounded five straight journeymen—and I suddenly had some idea of how it felt to be the last of them. I asked him whether he was angry at his father, who had abandoned him at a young age to move back to Kenya, and whether that motivated any of his rhetoric.(“As a general proposition, it’s hard to run for president by telling people how terrible things are,” Obama once said to me.)But if the president’s inability to cement his legacy in the form of Hillary Clinton proved the limits of his optimism, it also revealed the exceptional nature of his presidential victories.For eight years Barack Obama walked on ice and never fell. I was always inappropriately dressed, and inappropriately calibrated in tone: In one instance, I was too deferential; in another, too bellicose.

Some of those same immigrants had firebombed the homes of the children of those same slaves.Nonetheless, he agreed to a series of more formal conversations on this and other topics.The improbability of a black president had once been so strong that its most vivid representations were comedic.They did this with a mix of pride and longing—like college seniors in early May.They had no sense of the world they were graduating into. The farewell party, presented by BET (Black Entertainment Television), was the last in a series of concerts the first couple had hosted at the White House. By 6, two long lines stretched behind the Treasury Building, where the Secret Service was checking names.

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