In 2008 my family was a rarity in our largely black community of Gary, IN. We did not want to see Barack Obama elected as our president. The spectacle of the first black president and its significance to our children was not lost on us, but we just couldn’t support expansive government and a possible government take-over of the healthcare market in the name of history. We didn’t rejoice when he was elected and we’ve dealt with labels of ‘sellout’ and ‘Uncle Toms’ ever since.
However, in the wake of a very contentious 2016 election and the #NotMyPresident tantrums being thrown, I felt it was important to remind ourselves that the American presidency doesn’t always go our way, but every leader has qualities we can admire and cling to while we wait for another opportunity to express our God-given freedoms in the next elections. This is America. Things are never all bad. I’ve railed at Obama’s policies for 8 years, but now that he’s about to leave the White House, it’s a good time to reflect on some of the things I’ve appreciated about him and his family.
- He made history – 2017 will mark the first time my elementary-aged daughter will see a white president. She has no idea that it isn’t anything but completely normal to live in a country led by a black man. For her, the white president is the anomaly. That’s kind of cool.
- He is a beautiful example of black fathers and how important they are in our communities – For a community struggling with the fallout of low marriage rates and high single-parenthood rates, the Obamas are a wonderful picture of a stable, nuclear family. To see a black man who is (presumably) a faithful husband and loving father and who is also the leader of the free world is stunning and highly influential for many young, black men coming up in this country who haven’t been given to the opportunity to see a committed father and husband in action.
- Michelle– the woman turned 50 last year and looks incredible. Its been fun to see her dressed by some of the biggest designers in the world. Some of her outfits have been a miss, but most have been classy and flattering. I’ve never thought as Barack Obama as an attractive man but when they are dolled up for the latest state dinner they do cut quite the striking couple.
- Sasha and Malia – It’s always fun to have young kids in the White House. No matter who is in office, its a sweet reminder that America is always investing in the future. It is a reminder that we all do what we do and fight how fight for the love of our children, for the legacy they will inherit. Children bring joy. Its nice to see joy in the White House.
- Social media – Obama was really the first president to understand and harness the power of social media and entertainment. While conservatives were busy complaining about late night show appearances and Youtube guest spots, Obama was busy reaching millions of Americans who don’t watch Fox News or CNN. His messages and ideals were exposed to entirely apolitical audiences. There is an argument to be made that while the economy and healthcare continued to struggle, this understanding of social media and entertainment influence is what put him over the edge in his 2012 reelection effort.
- He’s fairly witty – He doesn’t mind dropping in for a silly skit or a segment about mean tweets on Jimmy Kimmel. Its good for Americans to see their president laughing about himself and the haters.
- He’s big on bicycle safety – Its a good example for all American kids. You’re not too cool to keep yourself safe.
- He got black America involved in the political process – Sadly, Hillary reversed a lot of that progress. Black voters stayed home, unmoved by the plagued candidate’s pleas to stop a Trump presidency. She just never connected. Obama made black Americans feel like their votes really mattered. Regardless of how the next four and eight years went for the black community, during election season we were energized and excited to be a part of history. It was empowering and although many weren’t convinced to show up in 2016, there has been a lasting impact on the psyche of black America and how they view the electoral process.
- The world was reminded that America still the best – We went to war with ourselves over slavery. During Jim Crow we protested relentlessly to have our constitutional rights restored. Then we elected a black president. Europeans may have given some women a chance to lead, but can you imagine Germany, Great Britain, Norway, Canada, Mexico, Japan…almost any 1st world country that isn’t already at least 50% black electing a black man? We’re awfully hard on ourselves in this country, but its important to remember that we lead the way in equality and opportunity and always have.
- He is living proof that a black man in America can do anything he sets his mind to, even be the leader of the free world – Our country is not perfect, but my great-grandparents couldn’t have even dreamed of seeing a black man in the White House one day. There are a lot of people who make a lot money making sure black people keep thinking they’ll never have the same opportunities as white people, but the Obamas stomp that hysterical deception into the ground. We can and do achieve anything in this country because this is our country, our nation, our heritage – just like every other American. We live in the greatest country on earth, and Obama showed all of us we can dare to dream to the highest of heights.
For all this, I am grateful to be a black American and the mother of a black son and a black daughter in times such as these.