Because Of Barack:
In 2004, then Illinois Senate candidate Barack Obama delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. I watched his speech in the family room with my father — probably on CNN or MSNBC — and at 13 years old I knew that one day he would be our President. I was in awe of his words, inspired by his delivery, transported by his assurance. From that day forward, Barack Obama has been a constant in my life. Once he secured the Democratic nomination ahead of the 2008 election, I was a high school senior ready to make my mark on the world. I couldn’t vote yet — 17 years old until a couple of weeks after the national vote — but I wrote and spoke and worked the polls during the primary. I did my due diligence. I watched intently when Barack won the first time, crying in my RA’s dorm room — both excited for our individual and collective futures and afraid to face the hostile judgement of my conservative roommates.
Barack Obama is national hero. His presidency impacted the souls of black kids everywhere who have cautiously been told their entire lives that they can grow up to do whatever they want. Because of him, those previously empty words actually became true. He is the child of an immigrant and I am too. He worked hard and studied, he dedicated himself to his community, and he faced condemnation with resilience. And I planned to do the same. As one of those black kids myself, I felt new watching our president speak and engage over the years. I identified with his struggle and I connected with his candor. I saw the same fatigue in his eyes that I saw in my parents’ — broken in by years of unwavering determination. When I listen to Barack Obama, I hear my father’s calming words. I feel his encouragement and understanding. I feel safe.
Years later, his two terms complete, I look back on Barack’s years in office with reverence. He was the change we so desperately needed, the African dad who loved us despite our tattoos, nose ring, and dyed hair. He laughed with us, cried with us, held our hands, and pushed us to do better even when we were kicking and screaming. Because of him, I stand a little taller and speak a little stronger.