Today marks the beginning of a series of emotional days for me. Actually, it started last night when it finally hit me that Barack Obama will no longer be president of the United States. That wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that the next Commander-in-Chief has the lowest approval rating than any incoming president in the last forty years. But this isn’t about how much of a screw up Donald Trump will be for the next four years or until he’s impeached. I am saying goodbye to a family that, overall, did a hell of a job leading this country for the last eight years.
As a young black woman living in America, Barack and Michelle Obama taught me a lot about myself. About life and about what I can be in this world. When they came into office in 2009, I was a 23-year-old still trying to find her way. Although my political leanings at the time were heavily influenced by the Republican/ conservative agenda, there was no denying that the first black family to live in the white house in the executive branch position was significant. I might not have agreed with their politics, but I was damn sure proud to be an American at that moment; especially because Michelle Obama was and is such a powerhouse.
She, in particular, came into the mainstream eye when young black girls needed someone to look up to. At that point, reality TV shows that depicted black women in horrible lights (they’ve only gotten worse by the way) was a measuring stick by which young women used to determine how to conduct themselves; how to get “put on.” The fact that Michelle is poised, beautiful and Ivy League educated was enough for me and countless others to take notice and embrace the notion that yes, I am black and yes, I can be a bad ass who one day may end up in the white house. The opportunities she opened merely by her presence alone are paramount to the advancement of women everywhere. So losing that caliber of first lady to what we are getting in the form of Melania Trump does not have me jumping for joy.
These two beautiful people, Barry and MO, showed me what a real power couple is all about and newsflash; it’s more than just money. They have given of themselves and labored for change in America. My prayer is that the change they worked so hard to bring to this country is not totally negated by what we are left to deal with come tomorrow. Furthermore, these two individuals have been prime examples of how to deal with adversity. All the times racists have dogged his wife’s looks, or questioned the authenticity of his citizenship or had something mean and ugly to say about his children, Barack Obama never forgot who he is- the president of the United States. It would have been very easy for him to step out of the role and into the role of defending father or husband, but his job as the leader of this country helped him maintain a level of professionalism and dignity that we have yet to see with the incoming administration’s leader. To say that is saddening and alarming is an understatement.
Finally, of all the things the Obama’s have given me, I cling to the optimism and hope that they continue to impart to those of us heartbroken by the current state of our political system. The notion of hope is one that has been present with the Obama administration from the very beginning. Although they are officially out of the Oval office come tomorrow, the impact of their message will live on in all of us who hope for a more loving and equal society. Despite what we are faced with, we don’t have to give in to the hate that surely awaits us. When those that lead us continue to go low, we have to find the strength, will power and self-control to go high. So high that even those who want to bring us back down to their level can’t reach us. This is what their legacy is leaving with me. This is one of the things I cling to in my personal moments of despair and anxiety.
So to the Obamas on the last day of their historic presidency, my heart is full of many emotions. As I wade through them, I remind myself to echo one of the many encouraging sentiments of the 44th President of the United States:
“The future rewards those who press on. I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself. I don’t have time to complain. I’m going to press on.”
Thank you, Barack and Michelle Obama.