President Obama gave his farewell address a few nights ago, January 10th 2017, in Chicago. His entrance to the stage was created with the roar of the crowd shouting a phrase that has become common in recent years, “Four more years.” Although it is constitutionally impossible, there is something else that is important about the ending of Obama’s term, it will make many of us appreciate just how good we had it the last eight years.
The first black president was not the panacea to race relations, although he never claimed to be. However, Barack Obama represented what makes America unique, a half white half black kid from Hawaii raised by a single mother from Kansas could make his way into the highest institutions of higher education and eventually the highest office in the land.
But once he got there it wasn’t easy. He experienced some of the greatest partisan opposition in modern history with members of Congress openly advocating for obstruction. And despite all the best efforts to prevent progress the president managed to save the economy from a second Great Depression, ensured more Americans than ever before in history, and stabilized multiple geopolitical issues.
Obama will be missed, no matter who would be entering the White House after him. One of those “this is history” moments for me was in the summer of 2015. It was the summer that a white supremacist wrent into a historically black church in Charleston South Carolina with the intent to kill African Americans to start a race war. He killed nine people.
Like many Americans, the events in Charleston were beyond disturbing. But the aftermath in Charleston did not turn violent, the people of Charleston did the exact opposite, they came together. During the eulogy for those that had their lives ended far too soon Obama spoke. At the time I was driving in my car on a long road trip and just happened to be listening to NPR. Hearing the president speak after times of tragedy was always comforting, but what happened during it was one of the most remarkable moments, he sang Amazing Grace. It just seemed so right, that the sitting president did not come to Charleston to speak of revenge or further violence, but to celebrate the lives of those that left too soon.
It is a moment I often look back on and it’s something that will have no equivalent in the next four years, let alone the next twenty years.
From January 21, 2009 to January 20, 2017 my president was black. Although he was not perfect, he brought forth a demeanor an understanding of issues that will forever be missed. Like many great presidents before him he changed the office in so many ways we won’t notice until he has already left the White House. He inspired millions to care about politics. And like many great things in life we won’t realize how great it was until it has already ended.
Thank you Mr. President.