I was a ten-year-old fifth grader in a predominantly black school district when Barack Obama was first inaugurated. My classmates and I watched it as if it were a movie, huddled around each other, soaking in every second. I didn’t know much about politics, but I knew enough about American history to realize how monumental this was for the country, and, specifically, the black community. When Obama was re-elected, I was a fourteen-year-old freshman in high school, just as ecstatic and bouncy as four years before. It felt good to be ten again, and not have the repeated idea of this will all come to an end in my head.
However, I knew this time would come. It had been in the works since Obama’s first win, and was solidified with his second term. I knew one day I would no longer live in a country where the First Family resembled my own family, shared similar experiences unique to being black in America. Eight years, and then four years, seemed like such a long time to serve, but it’s true that time really does fly by.
To some, Barack and Michelle Obama may just be the President and First Lady, but to me, they meant more than that. When I look at them, I see what I hope to be and have in my own future—love, strength, resilience, and pride. Throughout their eight years in the White House, they both have taken a stand in what they believe in, from LGBT+ rights to education for girls all over the world, and have done so with the dignity we expect from the leading couple of the country. Mrs. Obama has been one of the most active and outspoken First Ladies we’ve had, never being afraid to push the envelope of what a First Lady should be and should do. She is a symbol of power, and proof that success stories don’t have to stem from successful backgrounds, that you alone are the writer of your destiny. She has never shied away from where she came from, accepting the past in order to be determined to change the future. She and Mr. (Former) President continuously broke down the barriers of a President and First Lady for generations to come.
And for that, I thank them.
I thank them for being the goal that many, from kids to grown adults, aspire to. I thank them for setting a new standard of the “normal American,” embracing the diversity within our country, knowing our differences make us unique but still equal. I thank them for being fashion icons in magazines and comedians on Ellen and Jimmy Fallon. I thank them for being charismatic and insightful, witty and clever. I thank them for never being afraid to show weakness, thus proving that fragile moments do not make fragile people. I thank them for withstanding the backlash, the hate, and the disrespect they received from the first time they were in the public light, to the future that will still, unfortunately, have such comments. I thank them for being brave enough to change the course of America for the better, for making history during my lifetime that my future children will one day read about, for embracing their culture and their struggles, for being a voice to those who felt voiceless. I thank them, I thank them, I thank them.And though it is sad to see such a great legacy leave, I know the Obamas’ time at the forefront of our nation was filled with laughter, revolution, progress, and movement, despite all of the bad times we’ve seen as a country. The only thing to do now is to keep pushing forward, and not give up on the headway we’ve made to become a better America for the future. Now is the time to keep fighting for what we believe wholeheartedly in, what we know will positively impact those to come. Yes, we can. Yes, we did. Yes, we will. Thanks, Obama.