Barack Hussein Obama is the only president that I had ever voted for until 2016. The same goes for many of my peers. I know that this experience has been a privilege that many of us have taken for granted. This man, born in Hawaii, former resident of Indonesia, child of a Black African Father and White American mother, from humble beginnings and a self-seeking journey that lasted well into his 20s, is my president, and the only one that I have ever voted for until this past election. There is so much weight to that experience that no matter how I feel about those who chose to sit out this past election, I understand.
Show Up. Dive In. Stay At It.
Last night, Tuesday. January 10th, 2017 at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois, President Obama gave his farewell address. An address that serves as the conclusion of our 44th President’s groundbreaking, immensely challenging, and always controversial, presidency. Many say that no other president has been disrespected like our first African American president, and I agree. From congress to media outlets to the racist Joe Shmoe on the street, combined with tackling the obstacles left from his predecessors, President Barack Obama’s two terms in office were filled with graceful perseverance in the face of severe ugliness.
“Yes, our progress has been uneven. The work of democracy has always been hard. It has been contentious. Sometimes it has been bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some. (Barack Obama, Farewell Address 2017)”
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back. A struggle too familiar for many, especially, those attempting to do work that improves lives for others. How must it feel to win marriage equality, secure health insurance for 20 million citizens, extend clemency to 1,324 individuals, and much more, only to be succeeded by someone with starkly different values and the desire to undo everything you accomplished in office, arguably due to the public’s fascination and admiration of money, celebrity, and classism? I can’t imagine, but I know many of us can relate on all smaller scale. On the scale of sacrificing your time and dedicating your energy to a project or idea that you believe will improve your community, and therefore the world, only to be overlooked for what is popular, flashy, and trendy in the moment. It is difficult to persevere in your purpose when the work of substance is often ignored and the creation of facades, gimmicks, and “personalities” is celebrated. Throughout his presidency, President Obama has emphasized through his platform his love and service for everybody, and throughout his presidency, we have witnessed firsthand, that everybody was not for him. However, last night, as he gave his farewell address, eyes in the audience filled with tears, social media was somber, and his approval ratings at a seven-year high, many are beginning to realize how great of a servant Barack Hussein Obama was and is for our nation. Many are moved to see this man step down with grace after such a challenging presidency. Many are realizing what it looks like to witness someone stay true to themselves and walk in purpose.
“Let me tell you, this generation coming up — unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic — I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, and just, and inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, that it’s not something to fear but something to embrace, you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result the future is in good hands. (Barack Obama, Farewell Address 2017)”
Barack Obama was the first president many of us ever voted for. Is there a connection between Barack Obama’s elections and “Yes, We Can” campaign and the emergence of this altruistic generation? A generation that dusted off their grandparents’ picket signs, raised their voices on social media to fight for equality, and popularized crowd-funding platforms to support the needs of others? Is there a connection between “Yes, We Can” and the influx of blogs, posts, life coaches, motivational speakers, and others who push positivity, support, and love?
Our president, President Barack Hussein Obama, has undoubtedly left the world better than he found it, and we will too, just remember to Show up, Dive in, and Stay at it.
“Show up, dive in, stay at it. Sometimes you’ll win, sometimes you’ll lose. Presuming a reservoir in goodness, that can be a risk. And there will be times when the process will disappoint you. But for those of us fortunate enough to have been part of this one and to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire. (Barack Obama, Farewell Address 2017)”