REMEMBER when former US President Barack Obama walked among us mere mortals in 2011? He dazzled us with his charm, wit and of course, his ancestral connection to “the Moneygall Obamas”.
any will recall the country standing still as he brandished a hurl, poured Guinness and even had an encounter with an overly-excited Jedward.
However, it was his closing phrase to the thousands of cheering people gathered in Dublin’s city centre – “Yes we can… Is féidir linn” – that stuck with us the most.
Ten years on and it appears that his creed has changed to “Is féidir liom… Yes, I can”.
As one of the big US advocates for mask-wearing, social distancing and, most importantly, vaccine uptake, it seems the former president has now adopted the mantra of ‘do as I say, not as I do’.
Obama’s plans for a big blow-out to mark his 60th birthday made headlines around the world. Details emerged of his lavish hooley on the exclusive playground island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
Rumoured to be among the 475 guests are Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney and Steven Spielberg, with US rockers Pearl Jam entertaining the crowds.
The party will be held at the Obamas’ €15m, 30-acre waterfront property where guests will be asked to present proof of vaccination and a negative Covid-19 test. To the outside observer, it sounds like they are taking all the necessary precautions.
But for a skilled politician hailed as one of the most progressive presidents the United States has ever produced, this is a massive misstep by Obama and has been met with dismay in some circles.
There are now suggestions that he should cancel this huge faux-pas of a party. Just imagine the reaction if this was Donald Trump throwing himself a lavish bash and not one of the Democrats’ most revered representatives?
While there are no official rules banning outdoor gatherings, health officials have advised that large parties should be avoided, given the recent surge in cases in the US. And as Obama knows better than most, optics are everything, particularly while the world is still fighting a pandemic.
The nearby area of Provincetown in Cape Cod saw such a huge spread in cases after its July 4 celebrations that it prompted new guidelines on wearing masks from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Just last weekend, the US registered over 100,000 daily cases, the highest since early February. The Delta variant has contributed to a new surge in infections, with the CDC reporting rising numbers of cases in nearly 90pc of jurisdictions across the US.
The vaccine roll-out has also slowed down in recent weeks, standing at 69pc at the weekend, falling just short of Joe Biden’s target of 70pc.
The fight against the virus is nowhere near over. Yet here is one of the US’s most esteemed politicians behaving with the careless attitude of a college frat boy celebrating his 21st with a raucous keg party.
As a long-term admirer of former President Obama, I was disappointed to read the news of his plans for the milestone birthday bash.
I am also a mum of three young boys who haven’t been able to celebrate their own birthdays properly for the past 18 months. I am somewhat reluctant to even point this out, as the fun police are never too far away.
It’s even in the small things, the rites of passage that we used to take for granted. For example, none of the boys have been able to learn to swim properly because the pools were closed during lockdown.
Things are still nowhere near back to normal, despite the amazing uptake in the vaccination which is something Ireland should be immensely proud of.
There was no sun holiday for our family this year as we opted for a week down in Killarney for the second year in a row. And even still, the boys are excited about that as they count down how many sleeps are left until our holidays.
Life has changed utterly for so many people and for many, it will never be the same again. For now, having big blow-outs and lavish look-at-me celebrations are not an option as the Delta variant continues taking hold worldwide.
Will Barack’s party be safe? Probably.
Will everyone there be wealthy, privileged and vaccinated? Almost certainly.
But with another great Irishman Joe Biden desperately trying to quell the rising tide of Delta in America, Barack’s bash couldn’t have come at a worse time.