I see you, Mr. President

When I was in second grade, my mom’s friend asked me, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

To which I proudly replied, “President of the United States!”

Much to my disappointment, she had to give me a civics lesson, “Silly boy, you can’t be president. You weren’t born here.”

To this day, I remember and feel that moment so vividly. I’m sure she didn’t mean any harm, but to that young boy, it meant that I would never really be American. I felt that rejection of being Chinese. And not only was I Chinese, I was a Chinese boy born in Malaysia, a strange place that no one at school had ever heard of before. I didn’t want to be Chinese anymore.

At 21, I became a naturalized citizen. The melody of “Proud to be an American” blared through the Convention Center as we were all sworn in. Somehow, I didn’t feel too American. I still carried the weight of “you weren’t born here.”

In 2007, Barack Obama announced that he was running for President. As his campaign gained steam, it started to pique my interest in politics. I had always casually followed the political discourse of our country but never felt connected to it, let alone be able to affect it.

Something changed on November 4, 2008. It felt different. He looked different. Barack Obama represented everyone in America who didn’t look like the 43 Presidents who preceded him.

For the first time in my life,

I saw myself in my President.

I felt connected to politics.

I felt like my views had merit.

I felt a sense of agency.

I felt like I can affect my community.

I felt like I mattered.

I felt proud to be Chinese.

I felt proud to be an American.

“For all the places I’ve fallen short, I’ll tell you what has picked me back up. It’s been you. The American people.” -POTUS

It was a bittersweet moment to watch President Obama deliver yet another convention speech for the ages, tearing up as he said his final goodbye.

I see you, Mr. President.

For all the times you’ve picked us up,

For all the times you saw us,

A heartfelt thank you.

image credit: photo collage by Danny Woo, Screenshots from DNC Convention Speech.