“There is not a liberal America and a conservative America—there is a United States of America.” -- Barack Obama.
Barack Obama proclaimed to 9.1 million viewers on July 27, 2004, at the Democratic National Convention, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America, there is a United States of America.” His voice resonated within the hearts of many Americans, who may have been wondering who he was and where he came from.
This was our first glimpse at a man who would soon shake up America. Hendrick Hertzberg, political commentator for The New Yorker and former speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter, said that if Obama wrote that speech, he should be president. Four years later those words proved prophetic.
Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th president of the United States. The world seemed to tremble in elation while many Americans were left conflicted. Many looked forward to the progressive direction of our country, while others refused to assimilate. The first family awoke every day in a house built by men, both free and enslaved, of the same color. History was made. Our president was black. And the White House would never be the same.
Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ had become our reality: men would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
Unfortunately, the story didn't end here. Instead, the first black president shed a light on racism, as it reared its ugly head. No matter Obama’s accomplishments, there was a racial divide within our country and many could not get past the color of his skin.
“We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us and still strive for justice. Clear-eyed we can understand that there will be war and still strive for peace,” Obama said as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. During his time in office, Obama passed the Affordable Health Care Act, which granted millions of Americans access to health insurance they otherwise couldn't obtain and ruled same-sex marriage as constitutional.
Still, race had been something President Obama could not overcome. Under his presidency, the controversial ‘Black Lives Matter' movement coalesced. Many preferred the slogan 'All Lives Matter.' But that distracted us from the corrosive issues within the Black community.
Unarmed Black men were being killed at five times the rate of their white counterparts. Police officers were simply being placed on paid leave or transferred to other agencies,without so much as an admission of misconduct. It was as if White America assumed the community was ungrateful. Of course Black lives mattered, their President was proof.
The problem with that notion is that America has a proven track record of overlooking uncomfortable issues and admitting problems. Instead, we focus on trivial issues, such as kneeling during the pledge of allegiance because we don't want to admit the gross injustices within our society.
Everything that has transpired within these past eight years led to our current predicament. The parts of America that were forgotten are now demanding our attention, letting us know that they matter too. They will bring to light the dysfunction within our great country and choose our leader. Because we failed them.
Twelve years ago a no-name politician from Illinois spoke of hope. He said, “We teach little league in the blue states and yes we have some gay friends in the red states.”
Barack Obama preached for unity, understanding and progression. With the nation currently up in arms, even those that do not agree with Obama's policies will experience a sense of nostalgia in the coming months. With his approval ratings steadily climbing as his presidential clock runs out, we are reminded of one thing. You never really know what you have until it's gone –Obama out.