Barack Obama's visit to New Zealand this week looks like being fairly low key. Sponsored by Air New Zealand, Mastercard and Westpac, the visit organised by the New Zealand-United States Council will see the former President address an invited audience in Auckland, meet our Prime Minister and play golf with John Key and son Max on a couple of courses in Northland.

It will be low key because former leaders do not relish the limelight. Although the vast majority of New Zealanders would like to celebrate Obama's presence here, some will subscribe to the jaundiced view of him promoted by Fox News and Donald Trump during Obama's presidency, and they have hardly let up since.

Likewise, there are those in New Zealand who always took a dim view of John Key and may be disparaging of his role in the Obama visit. Both will be prepared for that but since they are no longer running for office they do not need to endure it. So except for the invited guests who hear Obama speak, the public may get little more than glimpses of him on television.

Nevertheless, it is wonderful he is coming here. Not many US presidents have been here in or out of office. Obama represents the dignity of the high office he won, the first African-American elected to it, and the respect it ought to command.


His was a difficult presidency, he proved to be a more collegial politician than most who make it to the White House. He tried to work with Congress and alongside other leaders in international forums. He was perhaps too tentative at crucial times but New Zealand should be grateful for his leadership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks and bringing them to fruition.

Obama will forever be remembered for the oratory of his campaign for the presidency, the size of his rallies, the excitement he generated among young Americans in 2008 and the happy tears of many on that election night when they realised he, and they, had broken a supposed racial barrier.

The US-NZ Council believes he will be equally inspiring for his audience this week comprising "leaders of today and tomorrow" from the community, commerce, local and central government. The rest of us can be pleased he is here, grateful to the companies that paid for it and hope he sees the best of New Zealand.