U.S. President Donald Trump's Twitter storms continue to keep the world on its toes. But he is nowhere close to his predecessor, President Barack Obama, in the number of "likes" the latter's most popular post earned this year.

Quoting Nelson Mandela, Obama decried white supremacism: "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion."

Eleven months after his departure from the White House, Obama's words and actions still command popular attention.

While most politicians leave the hub of politics that is Washington, D.C., upon retirement, the Obamas chose to stay in the nation's capital, mainly for their daughters' education.

When Obama accompanied 19-year-old Malia to Boston where she started university this past autumn, he wept, overcome with fatherly emotion. The media reported this with the warmest empathy.

In October, a series of letters Obama had written in his early 20s to his then-girlfriend were made public. "Salaries in the community organizations are too low to survive on right now," he wrote in one letter. In another, he said, "My ideas aren't as crystallized as they were while in school, but they have an immediacy and weight that may be more useful if and when I'm less observer and more participant."

These observations reveal his youthful struggles to find himself and his calling.

After completing his presidency, Obama spoke at the University of Chicago where he used to teach.

"I'm spending a lot of time thinking about what is the most important thing I can do for my next job," he said. "And what I'm convinced of is that although there are all kinds of issues that I care about and all kinds of issues that I intend to work on, the single most important thing I can do is to help in any way I can to prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world."

In retrospect, his presidency turned out to be a major disappointment for many. His foreign policy was disparaged as "weak-kneed," and his health-care reform plan--his most important commitment--ended up effectively emasculated.

He was almost painfully without allies within the political community. And yet, his words earned the trust of the rest of the world.

In stark contrast, the current resident of the White House has declared that accepting refugees is "detrimental to the interests of the United States," and called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "Little Rocket Man."

Trump's big mouth and Twitter rants have shocked, outraged and thrown the world into a spin throughout this year.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 20

* * *

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.