Thank you, President Obama.
In 2004, during the Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama took the stage and declared that there was no red state America, no blue state America, but a United States of America. That night, my dad told us he would be president one day.
Then four years later, he fulfilled my dad’s prophecy.
Eight years ago, I supported Hillary Clinton in a contentious, bitter primary. I was ready for the first woman president, and I thought she was going to win. How could she not?
And a long journey for me and my country began.
I looked around me and saw that the comfortable life I have lived was starting to crack – along with every other American citizen. The easier life we all lived post-Clinton was a thing of the past.
The economy was collapsing, and people were suffering. Uncertainty plagued every household, every employee and every employer.
It seemed that all hope in our great country and the foundation that held it was lost. Teachers, firefighters, office workers and nurses waited for their pink slips. Homeowners waited for their foreclosure notices. Sick seniors dreaded their medical bills.
Then flashed on the screen: HOPE AND CHANGE.
Handsome, charismatic, and dignified, the junior senator from Illinois, who no one had really heard of before 2008, entered our lives and gave us hope once more. His message shined bright with me and millions of Americans – that our best days were ahead, and if we worked together and trusted one another, we would prevail. It was change we could believe in, and boy did I believe it.
And I believe it now more than ever as this great man prepares to leave office, even in the face of an oncoming Trump Administration.
The facts remain: the deficit has been cut by two-thirds. The stock market hit its highest points in history (and still continues to grow). Eleven million jobs have been created, 30 million Americans now have healthcare, and the auto industry has been saved. Wages, for all races and incomes, are up for the first time in a decade. Same-sex marriage is the law of the land, and the Pentagon has opened up its door to women in all areas of expertise.
In other words – this country has been changed for the better, and it was the hope and perseverance of President Obama that got us here. I can see around me how much better off we are. The truth is right in front of our eyes, we don’t need the facts to tell us that (but they certainly don’t hurt to have in front of you during a debate).
Now that doesn’t mean he was perfect. The TPP, the large scale use of drones, the failure to fully communicate Obamacare and the need for a strong government irked me at times. But unlike left-wing and right-wing ideologies, I never looked for a pure president.
No one is perfect, and they can never govern perfectly.
So with absolutely no help from Republicans, congressional and state, President Obama never wavered in his commitment to allow the American citizen to indulge in the promise that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
We have more liberty, and I believe we are a happier nation because of him.
President Obama inspired me to pursue my own happiness. I’m a sophomore in college, currently working on a degree in political science. I hope to go to law school, specialize in constitutional law, and utilize my resources to bring change – good change – to Washington D.C. I’m a political writer, entering my fourth year of grinding out my passion for politics on paper. All of this, all the passion, anger, hope and sense of accomplishment I have when I write and share it with the world, I owe to President Obama.
I’ve burned many bridges, ended a couple friendships, and argued with a lot of people defending President Obama and his policies. I have not one regret. And I would do it all over again.
I came of age in the era of Obama. My world view of politics and culture have been shaped, in large part, because of him. He is, as some publications put it, the most consequential president in modern America.
His presidency, marked with dignity and grace – not scandal – was a gift to America and her people. He showed us what a calm, collected family man from the south side of Chicago could do with a little bit of hope, and yearning for change. A black man with the “funny name” (as he puts it), who grew up without his father and with his white mother and grandparents, transformed the face of this nation for generations to come.
How profound is that?
I will miss his calm, cool demeanor in times of crisis. I will miss his loving, inspiring message of hope. I’ll miss his family – especially Michelle, a First Lady who was the pinnacle of elegance.
Thanks, President Obama, my president, for helping this naive and politically inept 11 year old grow up into a passionate, fired-up 19 year old, who only wants to grow and do good for his fellow man.
President Obama, you built that. Yes, we can, and yes you did!
Featured image via The White House