In just a few hours, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States.
If you are a time traveler from the past, I’m sorry; this is as confusing and inexplicable to me as it is to you. But it’s real and it’s happening and if you have a second after going back in time to take out Hitler, please fix this. We would be so grateful.
But I don’t want to talk about him any more today. I want to talk about Obama.
I first noticed Barack Obama about the same time many others did, during his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. I was in New Hampshire at the time, at Dartmouth for a conference, and several of us watched the speech in the lounge of the dorm where we were staying. I don’t remember a word he said but I remember thinking whoa, this dude has something special. In 2008, I gave to his campaign (possibly the first time I ever made a campaign donation), attended a number of rallies, and had the great privilege to be one of just 2,000 people who got to see him speak at a campaign event in Lynchburg, Virginia. To this day, that is one of the most cherished memories of my life.
I wrote this and every word of it is still true.
I voted for him and when his victory was announced, I sat on my couch and cried and cried. I could not believe what I was witnessing. I remember watching his victory speech on TV and seeing some elderly people of color in the audience who were crying like I was, and I thought, they never expected this to happen in their lifetime. Never. And neither did I.
The last eight years have been very good to me – in part because of this administration and probably in part due to dumb luck. I met and married a wonderful man. He has earned not one, but two graduate degrees. The job market for both of our industries is very strong and has seen healthy growth. We moved to a city with even more opportunities than the cities we left. We have been stably and gainfully employed, and our family income has increased dramatically. We drive newer, reliable cars and live in a safe and spacious home. We can afford the health care we need and are able to provide for our kids. We have been able to take vacations. I never worry anymore about whether I can pay the bills or afford food or go to the doctor when I’m sick. I was able to witness health care reform and marriage equality, Dodd-Frank and the end of the 2008 recession, international agreements on climate change and trade, nuclear peace agreements and steady job growth and the reopening of the embassy in Cuba. Plus, I got the world’s best dog the very next day after Obama’s first inauguration.
Obama has not been a perfect president, and that’s okay with me. I never expected him to be. But I truly believe he has been the greatest president of my lifetime – a man of tremendous intelligence and integrity, who spent eight years without a whiff of personal scandal, who modeled loving and respectful relationships with his amazing wife and gorgeous daughters, who took the high road even when it must have chapped his ass like crazy. I have been so fortunate to have been alive to see his tenure.
We had a good run. I can only hope to live to see a day when another president comes around who inspires me the way this one did.
Thanks, Obama. I will miss you.