Mr. President, Chewing Gum is not Presidential.

John F. Abess

Friday was the 70th anniversary of D-day. ETV-World televised a live presentation from Swordfish Beach in Normandy of the D-day Anniversary commemorating 6 June, 1944. The commemoration was extraordinary. It was an artistic pageant involving spectacular choreography by professional dancers accompanied by the music of Beethoven. It included electronic LED concrete like slabs depicting people, photographs, and video, coordinated sound effects, and simulated artillery and mortars. It was deeply moving from an emotional standpoint. Indeed, I could not help but shed a few tears.   

Present for the commemoration was a large audience that included surviving veterans, and a variety of distinguished guests including many world leaders. These included (among others) the Queen of England, and the heads of France, Russia, Germany and the United States.   

I witnessed something amidst the artful beauty and pageantry that shook me with disbelief. The president of our own country, Mr. Obama, greatly embarrassed the entire United States of America and its people. Yes, Mr. Obama was present in person and body and he was dressed in a suit, but, I doubt he was present in the moment with his heart or mind. To me, it appeared Mr. Obama was experiencing the ceremony as a meaningless and inconvenient requirement of his office. How could I make this assumption? I can make it because there were many times when, as the camera would turn to him, I observed him to be chewing gum.   

Chewing gum is a non-verbal communication. It is behavior associated with relaxation. It is behavior designed to project an image of being “cool and informal.” Chewing gum at a formal event with world leaders is not presidential.   

Searching for an explanation of how this could occur, I think maybe the president of our country was never taught manners, social etiquette, or how to act out of respect for others? The most disturbing explanation was that he may never have been learned the very self-discipline that was demanded of all the soldiers who fought for this country and for its freedom. 

Mr. President, I shed tears of happiness for you when I learned you were the first black man to be elected to the presidency of the United States. Could you not have shed one tear for all the people who fought, sacrificed, and died on behalf of freedom? Really, did you have to chew gum?