January 10, 2017
Tonight, Barack Obama said “farewell.”
2008 was the first election that mattered to me in any meaningful sense.
Don’t get me wrong, I remember staying up well past my 6-year-old bed time in 2000 and thinking that everything was unfair but not quite understanding what “hanging chads” were and why everyone kept talking about them.
And I remember being proud to cast my vote in the middle school computer lab in 2004 for John Kerry, and trying (largely unsuccessfully) to convince my classmates at the seats next to me to do the same — excuse my on site electioneering.
2008, though, was different for me. I watched every debate and speech, I worried a bit too much that the prolonged Democratic race would be harmful to the success of the final Democratic ticket, and I was secretly a little thankful that I was too young to have to decide between a woman who had devoted her life to helping so many children and families and a man whose every speech made me a little bit more hopeful for the future.
I cheered with my family in the living room when Barack Obama became our president, and I fully expected that in 8 years I would be doing the same when Hillary Clinton assumed the same office. I was so hopeful and so proud to belong to a special group whose first two presidential votes would re-elect the first black president and elect the first woman president.
While that proved not to be the case, I’m proud of those votes, and I’m thankful to have grown up in (as Dinesh D’Souza likes to call it) Obama’s America.
I’m thankful that his election motivated me — a white, middle class, young woman in the Bible Belt — to think about why I called myself a Democrat.
I’m thankful that his election inspired me to be a bit bolder and to question (albeit in a quiet voice at first) the man at church who spoke under the assumption that all Muslims were terrorists, or the teacher that tended to put all of the emphasis on Hussein when reading the president’s name.
Most of all, I’m thankful to have grown up with a president that served with unwavering kindness and respect and who worked to make America great for all — regardless of where or who they were born.
So, thank you Barack Obama. I’m proud to have grown up in your America.