Don’t presidents always seem to be the most polarizing of figures? But I gotta’ say, last week, when Barack Obama made an appearance on Running Wild with Bear Grylls, the adventure show that follows Grylls as he traverses the wilderness, the reality series actually succeeded in further humanizing the leader of the free world for me, something that, in this day and age, is extremely hard to do.
Now, Bear Grylls is a whole other subject on his own (and actually kind of polarizing in his own right). Sporting a quasi-annoying enthusiasm that can border on the reckless, he sometimes has to fend off accusations of cutting corners. But one thing can be said about the dude: he cares deeply about the places he visits.
Obama meets up with Grylls in the Alaskan wild, flying in on a government helicopter in classic Secret Service fashion; meaning there was nothing secret about it with snipers and armed guards swarming somewhere off camera. The two journey up to what’s known as the Exit Glacier of the Harding Ice Field in Kenai Fjords National Park, the largest such field in the United States at 300 square miles. Obama’s mission, one he presents so earnestly and the reason he agreed to be on the show, is to highlight the glacier melt as it has receded some 812 feet since he took office in 2008. He puts the focus on global warming, which by now, if you don’t believe is real, you must be living somewhere out where Grylls likes to roam.
Obama doesn’t claim to be an outdoorsman, but he’s pretty handy in the ocean and used to rough it in the island hills of his home when he was young: “Growing up in Hawaii, I was more of an ocean kid than a mountain kid but there was some beautiful mountains in Hawaii I used to go up to with my friends (and use) a beat up old tent.”
The President is a baller (he loves to play hoops) so he’s in remarkable shape at 54. He keeps up with Grylls and delivers some pretty classic, off-the-cuff lines on the fly. The best one? When Grylls stops him along the trail, ooing and awing at some leftover bear hair on a branch, he tells Obama that bears are the most dangerous when they’re with their young, feeding or fornicating. “ I think that’s probably true for humans too,” says the President without pause.
Regardless of your politics, Obama definitely made for interesting viewing, surely a score for the Grylls franchise, not to mention wilderness lovers everywhere.