On Tuesday, during President Barack Obama's visit to Cuba — the first by a sitting president since Calvin Coolidge in 1928 — amid a series of formal acts of statesmanship, the president did something a little less formal: the wave.
Here's Obama and his family doing the wave with Cuban leader Raúl Castro at a baseball game in Havana:
Obama and Castro's waves are super awkward, just like their weird floppy handshake yesterday. It's great.
To get serious again for a second (sorry), there is something uncomfortable about watching the president buddy up with a fairly repressive dictator. But this is a reality of world politics: Here he is sipping wine with China's Xi Jinping, for example. When you have normal relations with another country, this is the kind of thing that happens on official state visits.
And ultimately, normal relations with Cuba are a good thing. The decades-old policy on hostility toward Cuba — a diplomatic and economic embargo — has been a massive failure. It hasn't weakened the Castro government or improved its human rights record, but it has helped immiserate ordinary Cubans. Changing that is good in and of itself, and it's at least theoretically possible that it could help push Cuba in a more liberal direction.
"[Obama's] policy toward the island is, without a doubt, his boldest hemispheric initiative," Susan Segal, the president and CEO of the Americas Society and Council of the Americas, writes for CNN.
"It chips away at a more than half-century-old embargo policy that has hurt ordinary Cubans, put US commercial interests at a disadvantage compared to those of other countries, and poisoned the US relationship with the rest of the continent."
Doing the wave with Raúl Castro probably isn't necessary for accomplishing this, strictly speaking. But it's a cute moment nonetheless.