As the days wind down toward January 20th, I am filled with emotion. Sure, fright and disgust come to mind as I think about what the next administration might do. But even more, I am sad to see our current administration come to an end. I cannot accurately put into words how much Barack Obama and Joe Biden have meant to me, but I will try my best to give them the send-off they deserve.
President Obama and Vice President Biden took on an unprecedented role in women's rights. Obama’s first bill signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which was an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law expanded the ability of a worker to seek rectification for pay discrimination. In other words, women, disabled people, LGBTQ individuals, etc. had more power to fight a wage gap in court. In 2010 with the Affordable Care Act, Obama demanded that contraceptives be available and affordable to women, and it eliminated common pre-existing conditions that keep women from getting quality health insurance.
Michelle Obama became one of the nation’s most badass women as maybe the most involved First Lady in U.S. history. Michelle didn't have time to worry about the White House china or hosting a dinner party; that woman was off saving the world, one healthy school lunch at a time. Dr. Jill Biden continued her day job as an educator, proving that women don't have sacrifice their work for their husband’s.
Vice President Joe Biden didn't sit pretty as a mere figurehead either. He launched the It’s On Us campaign to fight sexual assault on college campuses. When he chose to speak at Pitt, I was one of many excited students who got to shake his hand and get in a group selfie with him.
Both Obama and Biden confidently labeled themselves as feminists. Obama even wrote an extremely touching piece in Glamour Magazine discussing how the women in his life have influenced his view on feminism. It is next to impossible for a male to be able to relate to the setbacks and safety concerns that women experience in a daily basis, but those two didn't need to have first hand experience to understand that change is needed. It is not easy for men to publicly label themselves as feminists in a male-dominated world, but they didn't give a damn. I cannot describe how much it means to me to have the two biggest figures in the country as a personal cheering squad for women.
As a future doctor, I am also deeply grateful for President Obama’s efforts to provide affordable healthcare. He recognized the younger generation’s tendency to get a higher degree after college and allowed us to stay on our parent’s insurance plans until the age of 26. He stood up to insurance companies who think pregnancy and UTI’s are “pre-existing conditions”. He set up state exchanges and used tax credits as a way for lower income Americans to get care. Was the ACA perfect? Of course not. But it was an enormous step in the right direction. In making the law, even democrats knew things would need adjusted as years went on, but it was a fantastic place to start. A lot of republicans will criticize the law, but Obama provided a reasonable solution to our healthcare crisis, and that's more than any republican can say (I exempt Mr. Mitt Romney from that criticism).
President Obama has been, and will continue to be, a constant reminder that I chose to be a doctor because I love to help people, not because I wanted to make a lot of money. By learning about the ACA in some of my classes and doing my own reading, my understanding of government-controlled healthcare has taken a huge 180-degree turn. Some doctors don't like the ACA because they don't make as much money. Well guess what, buttercup? You should not have become a doctor if helping people was not your biggest priority. Even down the road, as I want to rip my hair out in medical school or get called into emergency surgery in the middle of the night, I will not forget my purpose in medicine.
More than just politics, the Obama administration has taught us about life. Barack and Michelle’s relationship perfectly demonstrates how two people should treat each other in a marriage. Their love for each other radiates out of pictures and press conferences, and it reminds us what true love should look like. The Obama family dynamic is the ideal definition of family values. They encourage their daughters to be strong, confident women who can achieve anything. Even through eight years of living in the spotlight filled with power, the Obamas still prioritize family first.
Joe Biden's history with loss has reminded us all to persevere through hard times. You won't find anyone else who can carry on after multiple personal tragedies with such an uplifting and optimistic spirit. He has reminded us that a broken heart will mend no matter how many times it is pushed to its limit. The nation watched with sadness as the Vice President mourned his son, Beau. But yet again, Joe Biden used his negative experience as a way to help others, starting the Cancer Moonshot to speed up research for cancer cures. Furthermore, Biden has taught us that life is too short to not eat ice cream every day.
Joe and Barack reminded us all what friendship really means. When looking for your best friend, just think “could the internet blow up over memes about us?” If the answer is no, you have not yet found your person. They showed us that you can (and should) mix work and play. Life is too short to be so serious at the office. Obama and Biden brought humor to late night talk shows, official dinners and social media, and that means a lot to the younger generations who often feel like politics is boring and dry. Have a little fun, goof around with a coworker, and find someone who brings out that little kid in you.
Their families have become extremely close and loyal to each other. Joe acknowledged that the two have not always agreed on political decisions, but they always respected each other no matter what. The internet may joke about their glorious bromance, but it’s clear as day that there is a deeper lesson learned from the memes and videos. Obama’s final presentation of The Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction summarizes the amazing friendship we have watched form. Biden claimed that he is not deserving of that award. Oh, but you are, Joe.
Not only are we losing a president, but we are losing one of the greats. People aren't exaggerating when they say Barack Obama and Joe Biden will go down as two of the greatest figures in American history. The class, poise, and grace of them and their families will go unmatched by world leaders for decades. I thank the Obamas and Bidens from the bottom of my heart for being an inspiration to people around the world.
We have been saying it for the past eight years, but this time I genuinely mean it: