I really have no time for Obama haters. Seriously. I don’t waste time arguing with people about politics and celebrities because it seems unproductive. However, if you want me to break my rule of disengagement, there’s one way to get me fired up! When people make meaningless, hateful remarks towards President Obama, I speak up! And you should too!
I have never had a role model, though I’ve always wanted one. I’ve never been able to look at someone who was considered “successful” in our society and honestly tell myself that I would like to be like him. Is that a little weird? Well, I certainly thought so. That’s why I lied. I lied to my teachers and I lied to myself. I told my teachers that I wanted to be like the African-American historical figures that I saw in my history books. I said that I wanted to be like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but I didn’t. I respected and admired him, but I didn’t want to be like him. The generational gap was too large and the personal connection wasn’t there. I lied to myself too. I would run home and watch music videos and read magazines featuring music moguls. After all, they were what a cool successful Black man of my generation was supposed to look like, right? Honestly, I was settling. I was settling for subpar role models who did not represent the lifestyle that I wanted to achieve. As an African-American millennial male, I never had a role model. That is, until 2008, when I started to learn about Barack Obama.
Can you imagine the amount of focus, dedication, intelligence, strategy and patience it must have taken to become the first African-American president? Sometimes I think about the untold Stories of the 44th president and the situations that he had to have faced throughout his career. His cool and calm demeanor make it look all too easy, but I know better. I know there is more to the story. I know the situations I’ve encountered along my professional journey and how difficult it is to be a Black man working for the corner office — well, in his case, the Oval Office. This awareness inspires me daily. Simply put, I am forever empowered because when I am placed in a position that deflates my professional aspirations, I can find inspiration in the untold stories of the 44th president. How many of his previous bosses, managers, superiors or co-workers tried to kill his dream? More importantly, how many of these people did he surpass on his climb to the nation’s highest office? We may never hear these stories. Truthfully, I don’t need to hear them because they do not define his legacy. Instead, he is defined by the grace, compassion and diligence that he displayed every day of his eight years as president.
Eight years, two daughters, one wife and zero scandals, yep, that’s my president. I grew up watching The Cosby Show, Family Matters and Fresh Prince. These TV shows laid the blueprint to building and maintaining a beautiful Black family. The only problem is they weren’t real. They were fictional tales about black families in LA mansions, New York brownstones and large, two-story Chicago homes, produced and written by teams of Hollywood execs. What was real was that my brother and I grew up in a home with a single mother. It was even realer that all of our friends grew up in single parent households also. I wanted to believe in the vision of the love-filled, beautiful Black family, but I had never seen it. The Obamas made it real. Barack is certainly not the first Black man to have a loving, caring, united family. However, I think it’s safe to say his presidency was the first time we had ever seen a family with that much melanin highlighted on the international stage. My hope is to one day have a family of my own. My prayer is that I can be to my wife what Barack is to Michelle. I want to be to be the kind of father that Barack is to Malia and Sasha.
He plays ball, his mother is Caucasian, he smoked a little reefer back in the day and he graduated from Harvard Law School. He has a signature walk, he speaks in a tone that has become his trademark, he is authentically himself. He did not lose himself, he did not forget himself and he did not compromise his morals, values or who he is as a person. His perspective on race in America is refreshing and remarkably insightful. Beyond being self-aware, he has also managed to heighten the awareness of American citizens on their role in society. He has continuously challenged us all to be more involved and his message of hope, action and inclusion will continue to influence future generations. Because he was a great president, I am a better citizen.
If I were able to get President Obama on the phone, I would not ask him about his untold stories. I would not ask him for advice on finding a wife like Michelle or raising children like Malia and Sasha. I would not ask for advice on staying true to myself. I would only say to him, “Thank you.”
(Photo: Pete Souza/White House)