I remember the excitement I felt eight years ago, on the eve of the inauguration of our country’s first Afro-American President. As I was putting by baby boy to bed that night, I was giddy at the knowledge that next day Barack Hussein Obama would become the very first president of my son’s life.
When I was young, I was not very political nor had strong interests in politics. I always viewed politics as something that only the elites engaged in, the Poli Sci majors, Washingtonians, and frankly, white people.
I understood that in America, people of color, especially a child of first generation immigrants had no place in politics. We never had a political discussion in our family, and politics was something that we only got a glimpse of as we walked by a newsstand.
It was ingrained early on that our main goal as the children of immigrants were to go to school, work hard, get good grades, and build a life that our parents can be proud of. No one told me about the impact that politics, policy decisions and those in power in this country have in our day-to-day lives and in our future.
As most Americans do, I went about my life with blind trust in our nation’s leaders. I believed that what happens in Washington served the best interest of the people, we the people. My only focus in life was to work hard, finish school, and gets a job to support myself. And that’s what I did for the first decade of my adult life.
Then came George W. Bush, 9/11, and the U.S. led invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. As Dick Cheney’s old company Halliburton profited from the invasion in Iraq and at the expense of American troops, none of it trickled down to the ordinary citizens of this country.
Friends of mine who didn’t have health insurance diagnosed with debilitating illness and cancer in their 20’s and 30’s were opting to die rather than bankrupt their families because they didn’t have health insurance. My parents who were just few years away from retirement lost their business and were thrown into financial uncertainty and hardship, and rather than looking forward to their golden years, they were burdened by financial viability until social security kicked in.
The man, the President that my parents so vehemently believed in and the Republican Party that they supported for decades abandoned them. Even worse, everyday Americans like my parents and friends were forgotten and became dispensable.
The country faced the worst recession since the Great Depression. People were losing jobs and homes in record number, and even 401K and retirement plans vanished as Fortune 500 companies disintegrated.
We were in the midst of economical 9/11, and I realized I could no longer stand on the side line of politics in this country. As a child of immigrants, a woman of color, and a mom, I had voice, a point of view and the right to choose a leader who represented me and my family’s needs.
I didn’t want to perpetuate the status quo by electing another white man, and I certainly was not going to continue supporting a political party that denigrate people of color, deny basic civil rights in the name of religious fanaticism, and promote wealth of the top 1% while citing “Trickle-down economics” as a legitimate reason.
So, I voted for the other party and the candidate who wasn’t white.
When Barack Obama became the 44th President, the country was in shambles. No one, not even I thought he would be able to fix all that was broken, certainly not in four years.
Things were so bad that when a reporter from German news agency was asked about the prospect of the new President being able to solve the economic crisis in the U.S., the reporter responded sarcastically that President Obama would have to be Jesus to resuscitate and rescue the devastated economy.
Well, hello Jesus! President Obama and his administration have cut the unemployment rate almost in half from 9.3% when he took office to 4.9% in 2016.
Furthermore, Obama Administration remade the nation’s health-care system and implemented an affordable (in hopes of achieving universal) health care for millions of uninsured Americans, a major feat that no other President, Republican or Democrat was able to do.
He revitalized a Justice Department that vigorously investigated police brutality and discrimination, and he began dismantling the private-prison system for federal inmates. Obama nominated the first Latina justice to the Supreme Court, gave presidential support to marriage equality, and ended the U.S. military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, thus honoring the civil-rights tradition that had inspired him.
Today, I think about the friends that I lost who would have had health care, who could have sought treatment instead of opting to die if they were alive during President Obama’s presidency. I think about all my friends in the LGBT community who were able get married and gained the same spousal rights as heterosexual couples.
And I think about all the children of undocumented immigrants, DREAMers, who came to this country without choice with the same hopes and dreams that I had and still have for better life and better future. Because of Obama Administration’s Deferred Action Initiative, they were not only sheltered from being deported but also were given opportunities to attend school and contribute to our nation by pursuing a higher education or serving in the U.S. armed forces.
President Obama has moved mountains and parted seas to tackle issues that impact Americans like me, and he has done so with dignity, integrity and kindness. He was a phenomenal leader and exemplary role model not only for my son, who has idolized President Obama since he could walk and talk but also for me as a parent who hopes one day, my son would follow his path and become the first Asian-American President.
President Obama has exceeded every expectation I had from my country’s leader, and even if there are issues and campaign promises that have not been kept, like closing Guantanamo, given the complete resistance and opposition he has faced from congressional Republicans throughout his presidency, I salute him for all the policies he was able to implement.
President Obama truly was the best President this nation has had during my lifetime, and I will forever be grateful for everything he has done for our country.
So, thank you President Obama for restoring my faith in our political leaders and making me realize that democracy is not a spectator sport!