Friday's presidential inauguration didn't just mean that Donald Trump took office as the nation's 45th president. It also meant that Americans had to say goodbye to their 44th president, Barack Obama. The Obamas said their goodbyes to the American people through televised speeches over the last week, but on Saturday, Americans vicariously said goodbye as Saturday Night Live sang To Sir, With Love for the ultimate farewell to now-former President Obama.
The tribute to Obama came at the end of Saturday's new episode. Cecily Strong stood on a darkened stage in front of a large portrait of the former president, as she began to sing the words to To Sir, With Love. The song made for a meaningful tribute: To Sir, With Love comes from a 1967 movie with the same name, in which a black teacher — played by Sidney Poitier — wins over an unruly group of white students in a London slum.
About halfway through the song, Sasheer Zamata joined in. In its movie, the song is sang to the teacher by a female student, as he is considering leaving the school for a new job. Still, many of the lyrics fit nicely into Obama's tribute.
...and as you leave, I know that I am losing my best friend — a friend who taught me right from wrong, and weak from strong...
After finishing their song, Strong and Zamata present a gift for Obama: a mug that says "World's Best President." They say their final thanks and goodbyes, and the screen fades to black, displaying the words, "Thank you President Obama." For a show that's known to be funny, it was an especially emotional sketch.
Surprisingly, it wasn't the only emotional moment of the episode. Comedian Aziz Ansari hosted Saturday's SNL, and his monologue delivered some pointed punches and nuggets of hope. For the most part, the punches were aimed at Trump and racists, while the nuggets of hope were reserved for those in opposition to Trump and racists, including the millions of people who marched in Satuday's Women's March on Washington and its sister events around the country.
Because if you look at our history, change doesn't come from presidents. Change comes from large groups of angry people. And if day one is any indication, you are part of the largest group of angry people I have ever seen.
Like To Sir, With Love, Ansari was a fitting part of Saturday's episode. He has been open about his concern for a Trumpian America, writing in a New York Times op-ed in June that the prejudice arising from Trump's rhetoric "makes me afraid for my family." Ansari's role in Saturday's SNL episode was undoubtedly to offer brutally honest commentary and a silver lining of hope for the future, while To Sir, With Love brought a touching tribute to the years past.