There is no “the answer”. There is no perfect candidate, politician, or person for that matter. I long for a President that doesn’t send our military to harm anyone. I long for a time where money isn’t power and that the powerful are unaffected by it. That being said, President Barack Obama has a fan and supporter in me.
I was reading “the Audacity of Hope” at the bar when a republican work friend joked “That kid’s all you got”. My response was “Kid? He’s like 50 and judging by what I’ve read so far I’m fine with it.” It was 2006 and we were awaiting the arrival of the Senator from Illinois to stump for Our local Senator. He didn’t speak for long, but I loved it. I was so jealous, seeing local politicians stand with Senator Obama for pictures. I snuck around to the back of the building as soon as he walked off the stage. I shook his hand and said “Thank you, Senator. You are a breath of fresh air in Washington”. He smiled that smile, said “Thank you” and signed my copy of the book.
In 2008, I worked phone banks for the first time for a candidate in any race. Barack Obama’s vision of and for the United States resonated with me. His message of Hope, Change, thoughtfulness, empathy and compromise was a message I longed to hear. I was energized. I was proud to vote for him. He was a candidate I believed in. I argued for him without hesitation, without caveat. That November he received 52.9% of the popular vote (69,498,516 votes) and won the electoral college 365 to 173. Attending his First Inauguration is one of the most incredible experiences of my life. There were strangers hugging each other, tears of joy and pride in so many of our eyes, ear to ear smiles, smiles you could feel in your heart. People of all ages and all races were there to bear witness to what we and history had achieved.
The first thing I disagreed with the President on was pulling some of the strongest Democrats out of Congress for his cabinet. Biden. Emanuel. Clinton. Later Kerry. There was also the matter of his big bank of a choice for Treasury secretary, whose task it was to stop the economic downward spiral our country was in, in 2008. President Obama’s predecessor had taken over an economy that was showing a “surplus” and after eight years of his oversight it was in free fall. In January 2009 alone the US had lost almost 600,000 jobs. 1.8 Million jobs were lost from Nov. 08 through Jan ’09. It took until the beginning of 2010 for the President’s Stimulus Package and other policies to see the United States once again adding private sector jobs on a monthly basis, as it has, with a few exceptions, ever since. Manufacturing jobs have not increased like other sectors and they are still far from the numbers we need, but it's moving in the right direction. President Obama’s first term oversaw the US withdrawal from President bush’s unnecessary war of choice in Iraq. A war that had me out in the streets protesting before it had even started. It also over saw the death of boogie man/al qaeda leader bin laden. But the center piece of that first term, almost as big of deal as bringing our economy from the brink, was healthcare reform. Health care reform was talked about and tried for decades, but under President Obama the Affordable Care Act was passed. After a LOT of debate, including a televised 8 hour round table with Democrats and republicans, the smaller than proposed, perhaps too insurance company friendly, health care bill passed, through reconciliation. It mandated not only that Americans should and must be covered, but also that pre-existing conditions were no longer allowable reasons for denial by insurance companies, children were allowed to remain on their parents' plan until they were 26, and 80% of premiums had to be spent on health care or be refunded. As Vice President Biden said at its passing “a big fucking deal”.
By 2012, the varnish had worn off of President Obama a bit. He wasn’t perfect. Gitmo was, and still is, open, though with far fewer prisoners. We hadn’t agreed on everything, and some of the disagreements were on issues very important to me, but He was still My President. Drones were killing people. It wasn’t "shock and awe" and they weren’t troops and tanks, but they were still killing people, "militants" and civilians. Though He was still the high minded intellectual idealist who wrote the Audacity of Hope, the reality of the Presidency, showed me, and I think him, that you’re just not going to get everything done, especially when you are up against an obstructionist party who has sworn to be against you from literally day one. The republican governors had not done their part where the ACA was concerned and Senate filibusters were at an all-time high. I still believed. I heard his speech at Cairo University. I heard his speech on race (“A More Perfect Union”). I heard his tearful emotional words after the Sandy Hook Mass Shooting. This was a thoughtful, non-reactionary leader. He was inclusive. He was striving to inspire the best in human nature. President Barack Obama won the 2012 Presidential election with 51.1% of the popular vote (65,915,795 votes) and the electoral college 332 to 206. The second Inauguration was not quite as big. One Million attendees as opposed to 2009’s 1.8 million. Though not quite as emotional as his first, the Second Inauguration of President Obama was inspiring. To watch and listen to the President’s address on Martin Luther King Day weekend, the first MLK Day for the monument constructed in his honor, was powerful. His address was full of possibilities, values and rights of and for all. He spoke of the LGBT community that would see marriage equality happen on his watch. He spoke of immigrants. He spoke of "Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall". He spoke of climate change and how America must lead. I was proud. I still believed.
President Obama invested more than any President into green energy and technology. He signed the Paris Accord, along with China, to slow the human effect on climate change and pollution. He signed the Iran nuclear deal, along with the UN Security Council, to halt Iran’s nuclear program without firing a shot. He signed Lily Leadbetter, Dodd-Frank, and the Credit Card Act. He appointed Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. He created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect against predatory financial institutions. Unemployment went from 9.3% to 4.9%. The annual deficit has been cut in half. The DOW has gone from just under 8,000 to just under 20,000. He restored "normalized" relations with Cuba. He stopped the economic bleeding that was passed on to him. And perhaps most importantly, He led our nation as a statesman. The way a President of the United States should lead.
So here we are, the First African American President, Barack Hussein Obama, has completed his full two terms. If he could have run, I would have voted for him for a third. Though the President has said the First Lady would divorce him if that were the case. And what a classy and down to Earth First Lady she has been. She has been steadfastly strong, intelligent, empathetic and always trying to and inspiring the best in us. The President, First Lady Michelle Obama, First daughters, Malia and Sasha, and the First Grandma Marian Robinson have been a role model for American families across the country. No scandals, aside from little coming of age marijuana experimentation, which was handled by the First Parents. Over the last eight years, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle have consistently taken the high road despite the disgusting haters and the racial epithets. The President remains hopeful, continuing to see the promise and possibility of our nation despite unprecedented obstructionism and hate.
Barack Obama was not “the answer” for everything I want in a leader, in a President, but he is by far the President I most related to. This is strange, because I am not a man born to a black Kenyan Father and a white Kansan mother, who was raised in Hawaii. I was not an African American community organizer or the president of the Harvard Law Review. I do share his thoughts on the promise and possibility of our country, on empathy and compassion. I agree with him on the importance of us leading the world in sustainable energy, greener practices as citizens, and green manufacturing for both environmental and economic reasons. I connected with him, and no one can explain or argue that away. Thank you Mr. President. I can’t wait to see what you do next.