But let's focus now on President O. I remember November 2004 when he was campaigning for the Democratic nomination, how, even at the voting booth, I struggled with my decision, Barack or Hillary? I honestly am not sure who I voted for that day, because I liked both. So when Obama won the Presidency, I was thrilled for our nation. I planned to go to Washington, D.C. just to be there, soaking it all in. But I didn't care that the tears were freezing on my face. I was proud; proud to be in a country where finally, finally race was not an obstacle in achieving the highest office. I was elated. I was talking about this trip to one of my co-workers today, which is probably what is also inspiring me to write tonight.
If you'd like to see my trip reports from that week, I'll make it easy for you and include them here.
Day 1: January 16, 2009 - Travel to Maryland
Day 2: January 17, 2009 -- James meets Bananaman
Day 3: January 18, 2009 -- The Rock Star Appears
Day 4: January 19, 2009 -- Sherry's Birthday in DC
Day 5: January 20, 2009 -- Inauguration Day
Day 6: January 21, 2009 -- Sherry almost dies
Day 7: January 22, 2009 -- Touring the Capitol Area
Day 8: January 23, 2009 -- Travel Home
Coming back to California after that trip, I was happy to share souvenirs with my friends and tell my stories. Then I went behind the Orange Curtain and watched the Oscars with some friends. I had not told them where I'd been, and I'm glad I didn't because one of my friends there voiced her negative opinion about President O when Sean Penn gave his acceptance speech for winning Best Actor for his portrayal of Harvey Milk. It wasn't the opinion that bothered me; it was the way she said it.
I am not a debater. When I believe in something politically, I'm not eloquent in voicing my opinion, nor am I skilled at arguing my point against others'. I quietly left at the end of the show and now avoid seeing certain people. It's difficult because I'm so passionate about my beliefs on the inside that I feel like I'm just going to blurt something out and that it won't exactly sound civil or polite. I guess I'm afraid I'll sound like the person at that party.
So let me blurt out (or whatever the writing equivalent is) some of the accomplishments this President has made through his decisions, by Supreme Court or Executive Decision or whatever.
- Obamacare. It's not perfect, but many people have been medically treated that could not obtain treatment before the Affordable Care Act.
- Marriage Equality. I know lots of happy couples. Many of them are happier because they were finally allowed to get married in their states.
- Got Bin Laden, immediately after telling jokes with impeccable timing at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
- Ended the embargo on Cuba. Someone I knew long ago didn't like President Kennedy because of the Bay of Pigs. I wonder what she thinks of Obama.
- Rebooted the auto industry. That was crazy-surprising to me. Wow, what a turn around!
- Lowest rate of unemployment since 1948.
No, he wasn't perfect. There's that whole Guantanamo situation, and some other issues that he tried to pass (stricter gun control) that couldn't get done. How could they get done with such obstruction in Congress? I know, lots of Presidents have that excuse. But not lots of Presidents had to deal with social media and the absence/decrease of actual investigative journalism and...uh oh...I'm about to blurt.
I've read two of Obama's books. I know his story. I will never know what it's like to be black. I only know what it's like to be me. I know my story. It's nothing like his. Yet I feel like he is someone I aspire to be: a leader who, with so much hatred and vitriol being thrown his way so publicly in the last eight years, handled it all (at least publicly) with grace. He never took the bait to become the stereotypical "Angry Black Man". He let Key and Peele take care of that for him. If you haven't seen the Obama Anger Translator sketches already, I highly recommend them.
He relied on the help of his staff, folks that had been with him through thick and thin, from the very beginning, knocking on doors, getting things signed, cold calling people, a true community of supporters. I want to be the kind of leader that inspires my folks to succeed. He inspires folks to pick up a clipboard, get signatures, and run for office themselves. I just want to inspire people to work hard, play harder, and respect everyone along the way.
One of my favorite things about Obama is the friendship he has with Vice President Biden. I loved all of the memes on FB about Biden joking to Obama about all the pranks he was going to play on the President Elect. They brightened my day. But aside from the funny, I enjoyed the genuine smiles on their faces. They're buds. I love that.
That White House Correspondents' Dinner? Every year, hilarious, even with the groan-worthy Dad jokes. He's funny. He can sing some smooth Al Green. He loves dogs. Hi, Bo and Sunny! He loves basketball. He respects science and research. He knows the Constitution. He headed the Harvard Law Review. He is a practicing Christian. He is the epitome of cool.
I think that what I love most of all about this man, though, is how much he loves his wife. When he thanked Michelle during his farewell speech, I cried. Then he cried and I started bawling. Oh my goodness. Their obvious affection for each other is beautiful. It's what I dream of having with someone someday. It's mutually supportive, humorous, and obviously a true partnership. The way they are raising their young girls is even more admirable, and I look forward to what those kids will bring as our leaders of tomorrow. Michelle has made the country more aware of nutrition, she's got those amazing arm muscles, she's beautiful and regular-figured (except maybe those biceps), is witty and just REAL. I'm going to miss seeing this couple as they ride off into the sunset and become "common" citizens again.
The impact of this presidency on this nation's allover history remains to be seen. But in the history of my life, it has been an amazing one to watch.
Thank you, President Obama. Thank you for your inspiring words, your elegance, your faith, your hope, your family, your smile, your eloquence, your patriotism, your swagger, your ideals. I'm glad I was here to see it all happen.