Obama Handles Heckler Way Better Than I Manage My Interrupting Children

shutterstock_70477234Yesterday President Obama put skills he undoubtedly perfected as a parent to the test when a protester interrupted his speech addressing national security issues — not once, not twice, but three times.

Founder of the anti-war group Code Pink, Medea Benjamin, started by imploring the president to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.

”Why don’t you sit down, and I will tell you exactly what I’m going to do,” Obama said, ending their first exchange. ”Thank you, ma’am.”

Although I am not talking about something as important as foreign policy and constitutional rights, I handle myself with my kids in his image. The first time they interrupt, I remain calm and patient, looking them in the eye to explain myself.

And then they go on, as did Benjamin.

Eager to have the floor, Benjamin objected to Obama’s plan to send the detainees to other countries.  Instead, she inserted her own plan, saying he must ”release them today.” She was again quieted, though Obama acknowledged her opinion was valid even if it differed from his.

”Part of free speech is you being able to speak, but also you listening and me being able to speak,” Obama said, adding: ”I’m willing to cut the young lady who interrupted me some slack, because it’s worth being passionate about. Is this who we are? Is that something our founders foresaw?”

Again, perfect parenting technique – validation and empathy.  I am a little rough on that part.

By the third time, everyone else’s patience was running out, even if Obama’s wasn’t. Benjamin went on her final tirade as she was hauled out by security.

”You are commander in chief! You can close Guantanamo today!” Benjamin shouted. ”You can release those 86 prisoners!””It’s been 11 years!” she said.

”Let me finish,” Obama pleaded with her.

”I love my country. I love the rule of law!” she said as she was finally removed by security. ”Abide by the rule of law. You’re a constitutional lawyer!”

”I’m going off-script, as you might have expected,” he said with a laugh. ”The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to. Obviously I do not agree with much of what she said, and obviously she wasn’t listening to me and much of what I said. But these are tough issues, and the suggestion that we can gloss over them is wrong.”

Obama handles heckler with patience, fairness, and empathy.  He must be the greatest dad — cool as a cucumber, never condescending, not a hint of “quiet down because I am the ruler of these United States.” Was that too revealing as to my tendencies?

Ok, so I am taking notes for when my kids interrupt me in much less stressful situations.  Like when I am trying to work and my four-year-old son comes up wanting to know why he can’t have another ice cream cone (the following is a transcript from a fictitious dialogue in which I channel Obama’s technique).

“More ice cream!”

I give him a look.


“Let me explain to you why you can’t have MORE ice cream today.”

“Ice cream has calcium and dairy and is full of good fats!”

“That’s all true, but it also has a lot of sugar.”

“Give us more ice cream!” my two-year-old chimes in.

“These are complex issues, boys and girls, and this is not the appropriate setting to discuss it. Right now, Eve, Amanda and I are skyping about our purple hair phases.”

It’ll work for toddlers, but I don’t think I’m quite ready for a televised press conference with important national security issues. I hope Sasha and Malia know how good they have it.

(photo: Brian Goodman/Shutterstock)

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