John Legend on the Beauty of the Obamas and Why Trump Is Unqualified to Be President


The executive producer of’ Southside With You ,’ chronicling Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date, opens up about the 2016 election. Plus, watch an exclusive clip from the film.”>

At his final White House Correspondents Dinner back in April, President Obama strolled up to the lectern and raised a thumb skyward, beckoning his audience to drink in the lyrics to Anna Kendricks Cups: When Im gone, when Im gone/ Youre gonna miss me when Im gone . He flashed that unmistakable grin, looked out at the crowd of assorted journalists, politicians, and head-scratching celebs, and quipped, You cant say it, but you know its true.

Yes, the Obamas are having a moment. Following the Democratic National Convention, an jaunt that boasted amazing speeches by POTUS and FLOTUSas well as a whooping, star-spangled Meryl StreepPresident Obamas approval rating rose to 54 percent, its highest number in three years. And Michelle Obamas speech was so damn stirring it left many wondering aloud whether shed run for political office. Now, to add compliment to flattery, a lovely new cinema is making theaters that documents the first couples first date. Its called Southside With You , and shouldnt run nearly as well as it does.

Written and directed by Richard Tanne and executive-produced by John Legend, the cinema traces a young statute associate by the name of Barack Obama( Parker Sawyers) and his day-long mission to woo his skeptical supervisor, Michelle Robinson( Tika Sumpter ). Its 1989 Chicago, and as they amble through the park, into a museum, and ultimately to a screening of Spike Lees Do the Right Thing , they share their life narratives and begin to fall in love. The journey is Linklater-esque, and the performances, especially Sawyerss, are pitch-perfect. He so closely resembles a young Obama that there are moments where you think youre watching the real thing.

You forget that hes not Obama sometimes, laughters Legend, chatting with The Daily Beast.

The 37 -year-old piano prodigy turned Grammy-winning crooner turned prolific cinema and television producer had been monitoring Tannes project since the script stage, and formally arrived on board as exec producer after filming was completed. He viewed it as similar in a manner that is to the Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma , in that they both tell important narratives of important periods in time. That cinema, helmed by Ava DuVernay, won the singer-songwriter an Academy Award for Best Original Song( he composed an original song, Start, for Southside as well ).

There was a good piece in The New York Times lately about what a good example theyve set as a couple, regardless of your politics, Legend tells of the Obamas, whove raised two fine young daughters, Malia and Sasha. Just as people, as mothers, and as a family, theyve been a great exampleand an aspirational one for not just people in this country, but people all over the world. For us all to be privy to a film about how that are beginning is pretty cool.

Legend, who sang the Obama election anthem Yes We Can back in 2008, describes how the Obamas presence as the quintessential all-American family is something that weve taken for granted. For instance, this years Republican nominee and ex-reality-TV superstar Donald Trump trotted out five kids from three different wives at his ominous convention.

Obviously theres a doubled standard and its to some extent a bit of root for your own side, and so youll blame things on one side that you wouldnt on your own team, tells Legend, adding, To some extent theres a doubled standard that has racial elements as well. They were held to a much higher standard, and they outstripped that standard.

He pauses. The Obamas have been a great example for the country and I think people are getting a bit nostalgic for that now when they see what some of the alternatives might be.

Legend is now a family man, too. His troll-slaying wife, Chrissy Teigen, lately dedicated birth to their first-born, a beautiful newborn daughter named Luna. And as far as 2016 runs, Legend says he is with her as well.

Ive fundraised for Hillary, and Ill be voting for her, tells Legend. I dont think we should be electing Donald Trump as chairman and Im supportive of Hillarys campaign. Theres nothing that they are able shock me anymore, but at this phase, Trumps made it very clear how his temperament is, how his personality is, what his level of intellectual depth is when it comes to policy, and hes stimulated it abundantly clear that hes utterly unqualified to be presidentno matter what your political positions are.

He isnt finished. Trumps been a public personality forever and thats fine if you want him to be a reality-TV host, but if you want him to be president theres a different standard, Legend continues. And remember, his entry into being a Republican was questioning the citizenship of the first black chairman. We know who he is, hes made it clear who he is, and now its time to show up and referendum. He never was a winning nominee. What hes selling is only palatable for a minority of the country. It might be the majority of the Republican Party, but its not the majority of the country.

Now, Legend is not only a piano wizard, having played on the track Everything Is Everything off The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill as a teen, but he also graduated from high school as salutatorian at persons under the age of 16, and had his degree from the University of Pennsylvania by 20. While at Penn, he says he crossed routes with Donald Trump Jr.the son of the Republican nominee.

I was at Penn at least at the same time as Donald Jr ., so our careers at Penn intersected, Legend recollects. He was like a year behind me. I never interacted with him. I knew he was on campus because he was the son of a famous person, but I didnt actually know or want to know anything about him at the time.

Our chat eventually comes back to Southside With You , and the legacy of President Obama. According to Legend, hes done an extraordinary undertaking as commander in chief.

Hes increased access to health care, taken job creation to a whole other level, lowered the unemployment rate, and been a lot to combat climate change, tells Legend. And at the same period, hes been a very great chairman to represent our country. Hes someone we can be proud of, and his family is one to be proud of as well.

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