Last night I cried. Hard. I’ve cried many nights before, but last night was much different. Tears of lost hope streamed down my face as I came to the realization that when I woke up today Barack Hussein Obama would no longer be the leader of the free world. Damn. How did we get here?
I mean, we all knew this day would come. Eight years ago we knew. Nobody could conceive the cost of his departure though. Say whatever you want to say about #44, but that man did a great job running the country. I remember what it was like before he came into office. I remember how the economy tanked. I remember watching the Twin Towers collapse. I distinctly recall witnessing thousands of my brothers and sisters as they were washed away and abandoned when the levees broke in New Orleans. I felt the sting of joblessness and losing my home and cars. Some of us must have forgot.
I also remember an unseasonably warm day in November of 2008 when hope and change were birthed. I was a graduate student at Columbia College in Chicago. My apartment window overlooked Grant Park. I watched as crews prepared for the night of the election – setting up barricades, fences and stages with Buckingham Fountain and Lake Michigan in view. I woke up that morning determined to make sure my voice was heard. Although I lived 35 miles from my registered polling place and I had no car, I was determined. I rented a car that day just to drive to Indiana to vote. When I arrived at the church where I was assigned to cast my ballot, the lines were extremely long – winding and weaving through the lobby. People of all different walks of life stood smiling and spoke to one another. It was so peaceful and friendly. I cast my vote extremely proudly, even though I was unsure. However that night was to turn out, I had done my civic duty.
Later that evening, my roommate Aleida and I prepared to go across the street to the park. We couldn’t bring in bags or really much of anything. The crowd was thick but it was full of joy, love, hope, and anticipation. We stood stage right as close as we could get, just in front of a jumbotron that was tuned in to CNN. With each state that was called we held our breath, gasped, then celebrated. I met people that night that I will likely never see again, but in that park they were friends. When the final state was called and John McCain conceded, I fell to my knees and I cried. That time it was tears of joy and disbelief. We did it.
Hearing President Elect Barack Obama speak in person had us all awestruck. It was completely unbelievable and inconceivable that the underdog, the biracial grassroots organizer from Chicago by way of Hawaii had swept the election. He didn’t just win by the skin of his teeth. No. He WON. We believed in him.
Fast forward to this past year. The election season was so painful that everybody wished it would just be over. Nobody believed in anyone. We just clung on to those who diabolically opposed what we hated or fear most. I fell asleep the night of the election. I don’t know if it was because I was overly confident that America wouldn’t elect an ignorant, pompous bigot billionaire with bad hair or if I was just tired of it all. Probably was a combination of the two. Either way, when I woke up the next morning I didn’t even check to see who won. I didn’t want to hear about it. Election season was over and I was just happy to have survived.
When I finally learned who America chose, I could not believe it. I couldn’t believe that everything President Obama had worked, fought, and earned grey hair and crows feet for was threatened. Unreal. For those who seem to have forgotten, overlooked or would like to discredit all of what has been done in the past 8 years, let me briefly outline it for you.
- Ended the 2008 economic recession
- Over 23 million jobs created, cutting African American unemployment in half
- Helped the auto industry recover
- Regulated big banks
- Helped Americans keep their homes that were threatened with foreclosure with the HAMP Act
- Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) passed guaranteeing healthcare for all
- Restored diplomatic ties with Cuba
- Reached a nuclear peace treaty with Iran
- Killed Osama bin Laden
- Withdrew troops from Iraq and Afghanistan
- Negotiated the Paris Agreement for climate change
- Initiated the My Brother’s Keeper initiative focused on improving the lives of black males
- Created the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans
- Signed the JOBS Act supporting small businesses receiving access to capital
- Partnered with HBCUs and community colleges to promote entrepreneurship across college campuses through the SBA
- Championed criminal justice reform and fair policing
- Commuted and pardoned sentences of 1,325 people
- Reduced the minimum penalties for crack cocaine offenses
- Created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to combat predatory lending
- And some more stuff I don’t have time to research and name!
And mind you, he did all of this while being vehemently opposed by a Republican Congress and without any personal scandals!
After all of this, it is hard to believe that the Cheeto in Chief will replace him. For 8 years, A BLACK MAN SUCCESSFULLY RAN AMERICA. Most people won’t understand the gravity of that. He ran on a campaign of hope and change. He gave us just what he said he would, no matter how history tells the story or what people’s political views are. His wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, showed us what it is to be smart, passionate, engaged, to support a black man and slay effortlessly while doing it. Together they showed the world what a real power couple looks like. And they did it with grace and so much class. I’m proud of them both. They feel like family. Like my uncle and aunt are leaving. I pray that they are even more effective in making progress and find so much peace and joy in this next season. The very things I’m sure they felt robbed of so many times this last 8 years.
I won’t deify President Obama. I know he has flaws and there was likely much more he could have done. I also won’t allow myself to completely lose hope when he is gone. I trust that God has a plan and that he is using the foolish things (and people) to confound the wise. I’ll just relish the fact that for two terms I witnessed peak black excellence in the highest office in our country. And for that, I am so grateful. #ObamaOut