Transforming the role of an ex-president

Photo by Netflix

Annie Cerria

In late April, the Obamas announced that they signed a multi-year deal with Netflix to produce several shows and movies. In addition, the family is starting their own production company called Higher Ground. A majority of the programs will deal with politically charged issues, which marks an important shift in the tone of the ex-presidency to one that encourages political action long after leaving public office.

Most of the programs deal with issues like racial, economic and gender equality. The Obama administration put these issues at the forefront of their policies, and to see them still addressing these issues in the ex-presidency is refreshing. When out of office, a majority of former presidents tend to avoid controversial political issues.

Obama is not the first to use the ex-presidency as an opportunity for activism. Former President Jimmy Carter dedicated many years of his life and millions of dollars toward relief efforts in Africa and supporting Habitat for Humanity. This tradition continued through George W. Bush’s administration, but the issues were always apolitical and nearly everyone could agree they needed to be addressed.

With the Obamas putting themselves at the forefront, it shows society that this family is willing to tackle controversial issues no matter their political status. This is a bold action by the Obamas and will hopefully inspire other political leaders.

Americans angry with the current political climate may be annoyed that the Obamas are choosing to be such political figures rather than objective voices. However, just because the Obamas are no longer in office doesn’t mean that they can’t still be a powerful political force. They have tremendous reach among many Americans, so it is commendable that they are using their power to call attention to important issues. They have transformed the role of the ex-presidency to a politically influential one. They are choosing to speak their mind about important issues that need to be addressed.

While they are not drafting laws or enacting new programs, these shows and movies will have a tremendous impact on society. Creating television that discusses past and present Americans’ struggles allows the Obamas to inspire change.

Their shows such as American Factory and Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom are documentary-type programs that deal with adult themes of economic and racial inequality. However, the show Listen to Your Vegetables & Eat Your Parents is a cartoon that teaches kids nutritional values. Producing shows for every generation ensures that they will have a widespread impact.

Some may criticize the Obamas for making a politically charged move when they no longer hold any office. But, former presidents and politicians need to stop shying away from important political issues simply because they are deemed too political.

Activism is not defined by picking the issues that are the least controversial. The country needs powerful people like the Obamas to encourage activism at every stage in life, fighting for the rights and safety of all citizens, no matter the criticism they may face along the way.