Written by Terra Walls
November brought to light a harsh reality for me and millions of other Americans. President Barack Obama is leaving, and a man who has made a numerous amount of controversial headlines in mere months without having been in office yet was soon to take his place. I felt a little hopeless when I thought about who I was supposed to look up to now as the leader of the free world. This isn’t to say that Obama is perfect - he is not without flaws by any means. He made calls and mistakes that can’t be overlooked.
|Pete Souza / The White House A little boy feels Obama's hair for similarities.|
Obama faced challenges that seemed insurmountable as he entered office. A nation plagued with racial tension, economic hardship, and a general distrust of politicians was now expected to respect his words. Nevertheless, Obama handled every headline and racist remark with class. When I think of reasons he’s considered to be a role model, I find his most inspiring moments to be results of his personality, and not just because of the political decisions he’s made.
|Pete Souza / The White House The President takes a run with the first dog, Bo.|
Obama became a role model for young minority boys and girls everywhere. Representation matters, and there is no position higher in this nation than the one of the President for a child to look up to. In a few weeks I won’t be able to look at the man who holds that position with as much admiration, but Obama’s farewell address tonight has helped me to reach a new outlook on the future.
In his address yesterday, after reminding us of where we’ve started and how far we’ve come, Obama spoke directly to the youth of America:
“This generation coming up - unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic - I’ve seen you in every corner of the country [...] You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result that the future is in good hands.”
@BerkeleyBSU / Twitter
Berkeley High students hold a walkout in
response to the election results.
In one of his final requests as President, Obama has asked us all to be the change that we seek. It’s no secret that a large amount of Americans felt outraged by the election results. Even social media was brimming with negativity and an overall sense of hopelessness, especially in youth. Obama has been the President for a large portion of our lives. He took office when I was ten, and I’m soon to begin my second semester of college.
Obama’s speech reminded me that he could have sat back in the same way some of us have, with complacency. He easily could’ve allowed the preconceived notions about Black men and their capabilities get to him, and then he wouldn't have ever so much as stepped foot in the Oval Office. If we’re unhappy and restless, we can accomplish much more by aspiring to make changes, even if they’re small, rather than sitting and complaining. Obama did not become the leader of the free world by watching and whining, and his final speech was a light to us all in the midst of new days that may seem dark.
I feel grateful to have grown up to see the first Black man in office, and grateful that my children will have such a large role model to look up to when their dreams seem too far-fetched. I am hopeful that by then, he won’t be the only one.