My president of the United States is still Barack Hussein Obama. He will remain as my POTUS until another duly elected Democratic representative of the people, not aided and abetted by Russian chicanery and Republican white supremacist voting skullduggery, sits in the oval office.
He continues to be a symbol of our better angels. A good man. A good husband. A good father. A good friend. A thoughtful man. A brilliant man. A leader with global respect.
The state of Illinois passed this legislation, signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Aug. 4, 2017:
August 4th of each year is designated as Barack Obama Day, to be observed throughout the State as a day set apart to honor the 44th President of the United States of America who began his career serving the People of Illinois in both the Illinois State Senate and the United States Senate, and dedicated his life to protecting the rights of Americans and building bridges across communities.
I will not sit here and say he had no imperfections. I will not assert that I agreed with all his policies. The man, the politician, the father, the husband is human—a human being who continues to embrace humanity.
What I can say is that he never, not once, made me ashamed to be a black citizen of the United States of America that elected him.
As a black American, I want to echo the words once spoken by Michelle Obama, which created a right-wing uproar, when she said, “For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.”
I’m holding on to that hope. We did it twice, and I believe we can do it again.
Happy Birthday, Mr. President.
I cannot even begin to pick a favorite photo of POTUS.
I chose this one after spending hours wading through pictures archived at the Barack Obama Presidential Library, which is a treasure trove of all things Obama:
- Archived White House Website
- Archived White House “Photos of the Day” slideshows
- Archived White House Flickr Photostream
- Archived White House YouTube Channel
- Archived White House Twitter Feed
- Archived White House Instagram
- Archived White House Facebook Page
- Archived White House Medium Page
- Archived White House Tumblr
- Obama White House Social Media Archive
- The National Archives Catalog
I probably chose the picture above because the little girl reminds me of me at three. I can’t even imagine the racist Harry Truman holding me like this.
I, like so many other people around the world, also embraced Michelle Obama, their two daughters—the whole Obama family.
Man this hurts. Alot. The People's House once had heart & decency.
I'll always be grateful that while growing up my daughter witnessed the empathy & intelligence of a true First Lady who represented this country w grace. I'm glad the Obama family is still lifting people up💙 pic.twitter.com/I8KzDFHLa1
— Angel🇺🇸 #VoteBlueNoMatterWho (@AngelandRick) July 28, 2019
One of the joys of the Obama years was to follow White House photographer Pete Souza. I still do.
It's crazy to think that just over 2 1/2 yrs ago this is what America had as the leader of the free world.
Do you miss him too?
— 💙 Koko ✊✊🏽✊🏾💙 (@Kokomothegreat) July 27, 2019
I also follow ObamaPlusKids:
— ObamaPlusKids (@ObamaPlusKids) July 3, 2019
— ObamaPlusKids (@ObamaPlusKids) May 23, 2019
I doubt there is a black person in America who didn’t understand what this photo meant:
— ObamaPlusKids (@ObamaPlusKids) May 5, 2019
Even his official portrait broke new ground:
Kehinde Wiley is known for his vibrant, large-scale work of African Americans posing as famous figures in Western history. The portrait doesn't include art historical reference but some of the flowers carry special meaning to President Obama. 📷: https://t.co/RV4Gw318qr pic.twitter.com/8eW4StHUtd
— National Portrait Gallery (@smithsoniannpg) July 16, 2019
I went back and rewatched Barack’s last week in office.
Welcome to the Obama Administration’s Final — and 388th — episode of your West Wing Week
Then—his farewell address in Chicago.
For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation. It’s what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom. It’s what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande. (Applause.) It’s what pushed women to reach for the ballot. It’s what powered workers to organize. It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima, Iraq and Afghanistan. And why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs, as well. (Applause.)
So that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional — not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change and make life better for those who follow. Yes, our progress has been uneven. The work of democracy has always been hard. It’s always been contentious. Sometimes it’s been bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all and not just some.
I contrasted that with when I first saw him. The young man with the strange name, who looked like men in my family—my family with a black grandfather who married my white grandmother from Kansas when it was illegal.
Tonight is a particular honor for me because, let’s face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely. My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin-roof shack. His father, my grandfather, was a cook, a domestic servant.
But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place; America which stood as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before. While studying here, my father met my mother. She was born in a town on the other side of the world, in Kansas. Her father worked on oil rigs and farms through most of the Depression. The day after Pearl Harbor he signed up for duty, joined Patton’s army and marched across Europe. Back home, my grandmother raised their baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they studied on the G.I. Bill, bought a house through FHA, and moved west in search of opportunity.
And they, too, had big dreams for their daughter, a common dream, born of two continents. My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or “blessed,” believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success. They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren’t rich, because in a generous America you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential. They are both passed away now. Yet, I know that, on this night, they look down on me with pride.
I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents’ dreams live on in my precious daughters. I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible.
I watched folks from black communities across the U.S. lift eyebrows at first, watch him with skepticism (no black man has a shot), and then shift gears and back him, while praying daily that he wouldn’t be shot.
Fast forward to today.
We are slogging now through a political sewer awash with anti-immigrant human rights abuses and white supremacist venom. Each day I awake, pinching myself, praying this has just been a nightmare. Alas, it is all too real.
It is fitting that black members of President Obama’s administration have spoken out—and he is proud of them.
I’ve always been proud of what this team accomplished during my administration. But more than what we did, I’m proud of how they’re continuing to fight for an America that’s better. https://t.co/0cfDltjueP
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) July 27, 2019
This op-ed is co-signed by 149 African Americans who served in the Obama administration.
We’ve heard this before. Go back where you came from. Go back to Africa. And now, “send her back.” Black and brown people in America don’t hear these chants in a vacuum; for many of us, we’ve felt their full force being shouted in our faces, whispered behind our backs, scrawled across lockers, or hurled at us online. They are part of a pattern in our country designed to denigrate us as well as keep us separate and afraid.
As 149 African Americans who served in the last administration, we witnessed firsthand the relentless attacks on the legitimacy of President Barack Obama and his family from our front-row seats to America’s first black presidency. Witnessing racism surge in our country, both during and after Obama’s service and ours, has been a shattering reality, to say the least. But it has also provided jet-fuel for our activism, especially in moments such as these.
They closed with:
The statesman Frederick Douglass warned, “The life of a nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful and virtuous.” This nation has neither grappled with nor healed from the horrors of its origins. It is time to advance that healing process now through our justice, economic, health and political systems.
Expect to hear more from us. We plan to leave this country better than we found it. This is our home.
Each day, when I don’t think the news and spews from Washington, D.C., can get any worse, I am determined that the current occupant will not erase the eight years that came before him. To lift my spirits I look back, and then set my sights on moving forward.
Repeating what I said in the opening: We did it twice—we can do it again.