Thursday, January 22, 2009

President Obama's First Day

A new chief executive's not going to solve the world's problems on "day one," but President Barack Obama seemed somewhat undistinguished on his initial day in office.

Barack Obama

Just hours after a long day of inaugural ceremony and celebration ended, President Barack Obama took up a pressing schedule on Wednesday, his first full day in office.

From retaking the oath of office, to reining-in Vice President "Loose Lips" Biden, President Obama looks to be ironing out some move-in kinks over the first couple of weeks. Perhaps that's natural, although Obama's predecessor, President George W. Bush, had spent lots of time around the White House during the presidency of G.H.W. Bush, and in some sense he seemed especially "fit" for the job.

I noticed also that Obama is returning some informality to the Oval Office. Unlike President George W. Bush, who steadfastly maintained a coat-and-tie rule for visitors to the oval office, and who himself always wore a suit when working there, President Obama
took off his jacket while sitting at the president's desk yesterday, in essence rollling back the button-down mannerism of his predecessor.

When I started at LBCC, I always wore a coat and tie for lectures. For various reasons I am dressing more casuallly now, although I miss dressing up, and I'll be going back to more formal dress at some point (I need some new clothes mostly, but also my mood and teaching style has been more casual).

There's something to that professionalism that is meaningful. Dress signifies seriousness and decorum. When Bush came in with his crisp White House style, a corporate élan, it was a stark difference from the Bill Clinton years, where it was reported that early in that term, young White House staffers would address senior U.S. military commanders visiting the president with a "What's happening, bro?" or some other casual greeting to that effect.

We'll see how things turn out, and change is good and refreshing, but that's another thing that I always admired about President Bush. His style and graciousness is something that I'll never forget.


Ottavio (Otto) Marasco said...

Donald, perhaps you can begin "dressing up" once again when you make a run for politics yourself. I believe you are more than qualified …

GWB’s graciousness and respect for everyone he crossed paths with is well documented. When he firmly shook one’s hand, looking them straight in the eyes, one realized his sincerity, humility, and out-and-out professionalism. From my readings, GWB is a man of distinction, someone whose focus and attentiveness was, at the given moment, exclusively on his audience. Even those persons whose politics were completely at odds with him would tell you, if they were honest, that the man had an unbridled degree of refinement, as did Laura.

Oh, and when you decide to run for office yourself do run it by us, you can rely on one supporter at least, South of the equator and many more at your end of town …

Finally, if you have time have a look at

Anonymous said...

Our esteemed host wrote:

When I started at LBCC, I always wore a coat and tie for lectures. For various reasons I am dressing more casuallly now, although I miss dressing up, and I'll be going back to more formal dress at some point (I need some new clothes mostly, but also my mood and teaching style has been more casual).

When I was s student at the University of Kentucky, in the mid-1970s, most of my professors were rather casual in dress -- even the ones who wore sports coats tended to the "professorial" elbow patch type jacket -- but one, Dr Gerard Silberstein, stands out.

A thorough gentleman of the old school, Dr Silberstein wore a well-tailored business suit, every day. His classes were meticulous, well-run and planned, and I still have my class notes from his European Diplomacy courses. Dr Silberstein simpl;y commanded attention.

I had to wear a suit to class one day myself, for some reason which has slipped my mind; I think I got extra credit for that!

Anonymous said...

The dress you speak of also signifies white-colored elitism.

The same elitism that Obama is probably reluctant to uphold.

There are two sides to every coin Professor.

Anonymous said...

It's only been a couple of days and I already feel like a man without a country.

By the way CS,

That was a stupid and immature comment. What are you 16.

No, it is called professionalism and presenting oneself as accountable. It is called the real world and recognizing standards and success.

Grow up...

The Vegas Art Guy said...

Every Wednesday our school dresses up, the men wear ties and the women dress up as well.

Even I, who hate ties, wear one on Wednesday.

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

There's something to that professionalism that is meaningful. Dress signifies seriousness and decorum.

It may seem insignificant or petty criticism to some, but I think there's a lot of merit to this point.

I have a friend who generates crowds for fortune 500 companies; and one of the things he stressed is how you package yourself, through dress and presentation. When he dressed in a crisp suit and tie he could command respect in a default way he cannot get by dressing down.

The Japanese always had school uniforms because it puts one in a frame of mind, conducive to learning- not making personal fashion statements.

I think the fact that we, as a society, have come to accept children calling adults on a first name basis is part of the breakdown in a sense of propriety and respect. It may seem insignificant, but that's because we've all conditioned ourselves to be desensitized to it. It seems normal, because it is; but it doesn't mean it's good for society.

Imagine the military dropping salutes and referring to their higher ups by first name.

Unwinding and dropping formalities in rare moments can have meaning and serve a purpose; but not if those things become the norm.

Anonymous said...

Donald: I have argued this very same point, in regard to kids wearing school uniforms.

And you guys all shot me down!

Which is it? If we dress properly we act properly, or freedom to dress down the way we want?

In school, I support dress codes/uniforms. Especially when you see what kids where today.

That said, yes, Bush was a gentleman in many respects and he treated people with dignity. I have no doubts about that.

My complaint was always that a middle manager got the CEO's job.

Anonymous said...

That would be "wear"!

Anonymous said...

But one thing President Obama should do is to start using hats.

The President would be magnifique wearing hats!

I'm with you on this, Philippe. I think Obama has a good sense of style. I don't really see the harm in his taking his jacket off in his office. Maybe it's that he's going to spend more time there and less on vacation.

The mythology in this country is that hats went out when JFK came into office. It's a good time to bring them back.

The Vegas Art Guy said...

Tim, we have uniforms here as well. I like uniforms and dress codes myself, students need to understand that if they want to be taken seriously they need to dress in a professional manner.

repsac3 said...

Lemmie go thirdsies on men's hats... Say what you will about Greywolfe... The guy does look good in that gravitar.

So far, mine're more function than form (One each: Tilley waterproof, sun, and winter hats), but I do intend to fix that if/when I have some extra money.

For those who're serious, two posts from one of my favorite non-political sites:

Bringing Back the Fashion Hats: Fedoras, Porkpies and the Derby | The Art of Manliness

Real Men & Hats: Old-School Fashion and Choosing Your Hat | The Art of Manliness

I have no particular opinion on the jacket thing. Respect for the office is one virtue, but rolling up one's sleeves & gettin' to work is another. Let each President decide, I guess.

Righty64 said...

You know, he is NOT my favorite politician, but former California speaker Willie Brown is one sharp dresser! And, he wears hats! I tend to agree with Reagan and Bush 43 about wearing the suit in the Oval Office. But, a good point is that a new president is setting another tone. And, he may come around to wearing the suit jacket at all times in the O. O. The more I think about it, I wished President Obama WOULD wear a hat. Yep, JFK killed the hat industry in the United States! Maybe it would take another Dem to bring it back. OMG! Too much agreement in this thread!

Anonymous said...

I believe we've reached bi-partisan agreement on hats. The second full day in office and unification has begun.

JBW said...

I'm all for hats boys, but many are hard to pull off without looking like a pretentious douche bag.

As far as jackets in the OO, I highly doubt that Obama would fail to wear one when receiving visitors but a standing rule that says everyone must wear them at all times seems like overkill. Style and presentation are important but trying too hard to look professional is not the same thing as being so.

And I'm sorry but Greywolfe looks like he just left a child's birthday party or a Jimmy Buffett concert in that hat. I hate to ruin this atmosphere of bipartisanship but it's the truth.

kreiz1 said...

The symbol of a sleeves-rolled-up president fits the times perfectly. I say- ditch the coat- we've got bigger fish to fry.

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