Thank you, Barack Obama

I was a few months shy of 18 when the 2008 Presidential Election took place. As a teenager, and a senior in high school, I felt this was the first election where I was able to develop an opinion of my own and root for the candidate that I was most excited about.

I began to learn about this man from the South Side of Chicago named Barack Obama who was campaigning for presidency. A black democrat with visions of change, progress and a genuine sense of hope for the country. I was immediately intrigued and wanted to understand everything he stood for.

I read the transcript from Obama’s campaign speech where he announced his bid for presidency and suddenly I was consumed with the idea of having a person like this as my president.

“ And if you will join me in this improbable quest, if you feel destiny calling, and see as I see, a future of endless possibility stretching before us; if you sense, as I sense, that the time is now to shake off our slumber, and slough off our fear, and make good on the debt we owe past and future generations, then I’m ready to take up the cause, and march with you, and work with you.” Barack Obama

I wasn’t old enough to vote in November 2008, but I never let that stop me from campaigning for Obama or discussing his platform with others. Politics have been embedded into my life since a child.

My grandparents both played roles in Nebraska’s government and one of my earliest memories is standing on 114th and pacific with campaign signs for my grandfather, James Monen. My grandfather, who I referred to as gramps, was a Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Judge from 1977–1993 and went on to be a Legislator for Omaha’s 4th district. Their home office is lined with photos of them with people who have come to influence my life in many ways, Warren Buffett and Barack Obama being two that I tend to admire the most.

When Obama was elected the 44th President of the Untied States on November 4, 2008 I felt motivated and was so eager to see what he would do over the next four years. I watched with tears in my eyes during his Inaugural Address and felt a positive shift in the United States.

“The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.” Barack Obama

Four years later, I was able to cast my vote for President Barack Obama’s second term. It was like 2008 all over again, but this time, I was even more devoted to Obama and was able to officially support him in the election which was a feeling unlike any other. I knew that he had so much more left to do, to change, to unite, to end. When he won, I felt a joy that I had never experienced before. I felt like my best friend had just become the President of the Untied States and I was so ready to watch all he would do with pride.

While watching Barack Obama lead this country over the past 8 years, I have felt proud. Barack Obama has taught me what it means to be accepting, just, and honest. He has introduced me to a world of politics that promises progress and a brighter future.

The passion that grew from Obama was not simply because of his political importance, but also the people he surrounded himself with. Michelle, Malia, Sasha, and their two Portuguese Water Dogs, Bo and Sunny, became my image of the true American family. Michelle Obama has made me a better person just by being the dedicated, hard working and brilliant role model that she is.

“Although the circumstances of our lives may seem very disengaged, with me standing here as the First Lady of the United States of America and you just getting through school, I want you to know we have very much in common. For nothing in my life ever would have predicted that I would be standing here as the first African-American First Lady.” Michelle Obama

Along with the Obama family came another great role model for myself and thousands of others. Barack’s right hand man, Joe Biden has been an essential part of my ever growing interest in politics. I couldn’t imagine a greater Vice President than Biden and I was just as much rooting for him as I have been Obama.

Joe Biden, like Barack Obama, left me feeling hopeful at the end of every address, election, speech, e-mail, article, and interview. Watching him interact with Obama, along with their friendship and ability to work as a true team, was and continues to be moving.

Barack and Joe’s dedication to the job, as the two most important leaders in the Untied States, over the past 8 years has left me feeling thankful. I am thankful to have been able to experience the years of democracy and momentum and the overwhelming feeling that the future can be a bright one.

“Our future cannot depend on the government alone. The ultimate solutions lie in the attitudes and the actions of the American people.” Joe Biden

Together, Barack Obama and Joe Biden created a shift in American culture and politics. They were fearless with every challenge they took on and in return, provided America with amazing results.

I will remember President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden by many things, but what I am most proud of and will talk about until the day that I die are the following:

  • Repealed the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy
  • Supported and ensured the passing of the legalization of same sex marriage, not to mention extending benefits to same sex partners to ferderal employees
  • Signed the Claims Resolution Act and allowed government funding for black and Native American farmers ($4.6 billion to be exact)
  • Signed the Fair Pay Act and brought progress to the fight against pay discrimination
  • Issued an executive order to ban torture for prisoners
  • Nominated the first ever Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor
  • Signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act
  • Investigated Ferguson Police and visited Flint, Michigan when many news sources were ignoring the issues
  • Created the most diverse group of government officials ever
  • Developed strong and important relationships with leaders all over the world
  • Stood up for undocumented youth by creating the DREAM Act, as well as the DACA program
  • Signed created The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, insuring over 12 million people this year and created the all time lowest rate of uninsured Americans
  • Campaigned for Hillary Clinton as the best choice for presidency in 2016, stood up to Donald Trump and his negative campaign, assuring that his progress cannot be undone

This list could go on forever and I know that I am forgetting momentous things that Obama achieved. His presidency has been an uphill battle with many wins and losses, but he never gave up on what he believed was right for the United States.

As the days dwindle on the time left with Obama in office, it’s important to reflect on what has been accomplished since 2008 and to understand how far we have come and how far we still have to go.

We begin 2017 with President Donald Trump gearing up for office and it is important that we do not allow Obama’s legacy to disappear. America is built on democracy and in the 2016 election, the country decided that it wanted to go in a different direction. This does not mean that our course for progress is gone, it just means that we have to work a lot harder now.

The new White House administration will surely work as hard as they can to take back the triumphs of Barack Obama. The path of acceptance, diversity, understanding and hope is closing in and we must stand together to hold it open.

I am not the only one who was and will forever be inspired by the work of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, their families, and the people that surrounded them. The momentum was not just in the hands of the executive administration, it was from the support of everyday American’s, like you and me, that made change possible.

No matter what President Trump throws at us, we must stand firm on our beliefs and allow democracy to work. The path of change has never been an easy one, even with President Obama, there are always challenges.

Thank you President Barack Obama, for inspiring me, creating an atmosphere of hope, changing the way the world looks at us, and for teaching me what true democracy looks like.

“ Let me tell you, this generation coming up — unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic — I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, and just, and inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, that it’s not something to fear but something to embrace, you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result the future is in good hands.” Barack Obama

Thank you President Barack Obama, for everything.