Sixteen summers ago, I interviewed former president Barack Obama for a daily newspaper following his delivery of a keynote speech in Rockford, Ill. I was still a young, wet-under-the-ears reporter, but I recognized even then that Obama had all the charisma that would help him become president almost three years later. I overheard women chattering amongst each other about how dreamy he is before he even gave the speech.
Even then, despite his star-making 2004 Democratic National Convention speech a year prior, I had no idea Obama would become leader of the free world and go on to live enough lifetimes for 100 men within just a few years. If I had, I wouldn’t have recorded over our interview.
Obama turns 60 on Aug. 4 – nine days before I turn 40. Our interview feels like forever and many gray hairs (for both of us) ago, but it’s been delightful to watch everything he’s accomplished since we met.
To celebrate Obama stepping into sexagenarianism, here are 60 things from the life and career of Barack Obama of which he has to be proud.
1. That whole “first Black president” trailblazing thing.
2. His oldest daughter, Malia just graduated from Harvard University.
3. He pulls off full-blown nerd with aplomb.
4. He got the heck outta Dodge before inheriting a whole pandemic.
5. He (more or less) did good by backing the Joe Biden horse all these years.
6. His post-presidential memoir A Promised Land was the best-selling book of 2020, and there’s a sequel on the way.
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7. He’s doing the salt-and-pepper thing well. (Because Black folks age like Sangiovese)
8. As a native Hawaiian, he has a good reason to visit Hawaii on a regular basis.
9. He has the U.S. Secret Service watching his back, front and sides for life.
10. Homie pulled off that tan suit and made it so no other president could even try it.
11. His daughter, Sasha, attends the University of Michigan, otherwise known as the best university in the Milky Way.
12. Who better photographs with other folks’ kids? We’ll wait.
13. He’s the subject of many fine memes easily accessible on an iPhone. (I can’t speak for Androids. No one should, really.)
14. He called out Kanye West before it was cool.
15. In 2012, he became the first president to publicly support same-sex marriage.
16. He proposed to Michelle Obama and she said yes. Period. Full stop.
17. Dude took out Osama Bin Laden.
18. He signed into law the Affordable Care Act in 2010. It will forever and always be better known as “Obamacare.”
19. He has great taste in music…
20. …and film
21. ….and books. That’s one culturally well-rounded brother.
22. He’s accomplished so much in 60 years, but there’s still so much to look forward to after 60.
23. He’s a two-time Grammy winner for his audiobook reading. Only three left to hit that EGOT!
24. He became the first Black president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review in 1990.
25. Trap rap royalty Jeezy has a whole song dedicated to him.
26. He’s probably the only human being who has German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Jay-Z in his contacts list.
27. If ever he wanted Oprah to interview him, he probably just needs to cook his wife breakfast or something.
28. As an ex-president, he will earn a $219,200 annual pension for the rest of his days.
29. But pension schmension… he gets almost twice as much per speech.
30. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act he signed in 2009 for $787 billion was perhaps the biggest catalyst in rebuilding after the Great Recession he inherited when he got to office.
31. He clipped “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” albeit far later than it should’ve been clipped by any other sitting president.
32. He basically made us cool to the rest of the world. If you traveled abroad during his administration, you know. If you traveled during the Bush and Trump administrations, you really know.
33. He basically single handedly carried Fox News as they dangled from his coattails for eight years.
34. I mean honestly, they came at him over mustard. This is what the then-sentient monster-Chet-from-"Weird Science" Roger Ailes had to work with.
35. He ended the seemingly-interminable Iraq War by pulling all troops out of the country by December 2011.
36. He had a special relationship with the greatest female vocalist of all time, Aretha Franklin.
37. He sonned everyone with grace during the “birther” bull----.
38. His Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009 made it so credit card companies keep us in a (slightly) smaller chokehold.
39. He was awarded TIME Magazine’s “Person of the Year.” Twice. Because he’s fresh like that.
40. He also landed the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. No big deal.
41. He’s getting his own “presidential center” in Chicago (at some point).
42. He and Michelle landed that big Netflix bag money with a multi-year content deal.
43. He’ll likely forever lay claim to the most popular Democratic National Committee speech ever, which set him on the trajectory to the White House in 2004.
44. A whole generation of early-30-somethings can say that the first time they voted in an election was for a Black president.
45. Also, he was the final vote for a generation of elderly Black voters who were alive and well through the U.S. civil rights movement and who lived to see themselves represented at the highest level of government.
46. He survived what had to be the most arduous vetting process for a president ever (because, racism) and only really had to sacrifice Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
47. He earned his bones in Chicago. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
48. Kehinde Wiley straight killed his official portrait painting.
49. The Obamas own a $11.75 million estate in Martha’s Vineyard. Natch.
50. You don’t have a crib like that and not take advantage: He’s throwing a big 60th birthday bash in the 6,900 square foot crib with nearly 500 people. Expect Oprah and George Clooney to be on deck, among others. Not you, though.
51. No former president and spouse looked nearly as good together as Barack and Michelle.
53. He kept a brother from around the way as his regular barber throughout his entire presidency.
54. Dude had a gas station named after him in my hometown of Detroit for a time. Like, what?!?
55. He had, hands down, the best White House Correspondents Dinners of all time.
56. Speaking of which, his ease at self-deprecation is nonpareil for a leader of the free world.
57. He’s done an uncanny job of staying off the wrong side of history. Who has ever talked about “canceling” Obama for anything meaningful?
58. Having the grapes to sing Al Green in front of the world.
59. Watching how he dealt with critics in comparison to his immediate successor is like watching a split screen of a toddler and an adult.
60. Speaking of critics, if Obama was ever truly bothered by any of y’all, he did a remarkable job of never showing it. Happy Birthday, Mr. President.
Dustin J. Seibert is a native Detroiter living in Chicago. He loves his own mama slightly more than he loves music and exercises every day only so his French fry intake doesn’t catch up to him. Find him at wafflecolored.com.
Photos by: Joe Raedle/Getty Images; Jessica McGowan/Getty Images; Alyssa Pointer-Pool/Getty Images; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; Cristina Quickler/AFP via Getty Images)