History is never fair and does not always reward good people. It is always efficient and always punishes the weak.
That is the lesson that could be drawn with regard to the ending terms of office of two Presidents, in the United States and France who, from now on, have only a few days for one, and a few weeks for the other to give meaning to their action.
This situation may seem peculiar to elected representatives, or to all those whose mandate is limited in time, in fact, it applies to each of us, if or when we come to realize that we will have, on a fixed date, to leave a job, or depart from life.
What should we do in that situation? Wait for this to end calmy and dispassionately? Rush and act precipitously to accomplish all the things that should have been done up to this point? Make the most of the last moments to improve one’s track record and the trace left on the destiny of others?
The choices made by Barack Obama and Francois Hollande can help us reflect on what we might want to do, what we will need to do, faced with this situation, because we shall all be facing such a situation, one way or another.
Both Presidents now seem to be rushing to give answers to difficult problems in a haphazard manner, with all the more excitement because they must expect no good-will from their successors.
This explains why we see the US President’s hostility, subdued for the moment, toward the Russian president, the Israeli Prime Minister, the oil companies and US insurers, any behavior that could have laid the foundation for a courageous foreign policy even if it was questionable, if it had been going on head-on for eight years.
Similarly, the French President seems to have a need to make a passion for the weak visible, a concern for a respectful treatment of foreigners, which has not always been visible on constitutional and fiscal decisions or projects of his successive governments.
Both Presidents could do a lot better, in these brief and precious moments. They should tell their country and the world, in all sincerity, why they have not had the courage to dismiss all electoralism, what reforms they were regretting not having undertaken yet, and those that they had the honor to lead and that still appear to be particularly important for the country’s future.
Both should propose an agenda for the next ten years to their successors, for tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, even if it means not being heard.
If both had done the above, their mandate would not end in a pathetic and demagogic race against the clock, which will be justly forgotten once they leave office.
Only one American president did so, Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his farewell address to the nation against the potential influence of the military–industrial complex, delivered on January 17, 1961, a week before the end of his term of office; and only one French President, Francois Mitterrand, in his moving speech on 17 January (yes, also on 17 January!) 1995, three months before leaving office, on the dangers of nationalism.
This is probably the best lesson we can learn from all this: Remembering that we must always act as if we had only a few weeks left, and never procrastinate, without being sloppy in doing what requires time to be built. To always have a project for the next ten years, and if there is not enough time to bring it to completion, at least, put in in the hands of those who will be in charge of it next.