Generation Obama: Saying farewell to my first real president

President Barack Obama. Courtesy of Flickr
President Barack Obama. Courtesy of Flickr

It’s November 5, 2008. I’m 13 years old and my dad is driving me to school. It’s a foggy morning, there’s heavy traffic and the radio is on.

“Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States.”

“Last night we named the first black man in history as our president, Barack Obama.”

My dad and I sit in silence surrounded by the political commentary coming through the speakers. This is the first presidential election I was old enough to somewhat comprehend. Sure, I didn’t know what an electoral college was or what the differences between the right and left sides were, but I understood that Obama was the first black president, ever. And that was big.

I remember asking my dad, “Is everything going to change?”

I couldn’t help but feel that everything was going to be different between the news and the radio’s hype of Obama’s win. My dad told me that the only thing that’s changed is that there was going to be a different man in the White House and that he was a democrat.

I had a weird feeling in my gut that morning. Looking back, I’d call it a mix of excitement and fear. Excitement because every media outlet I turned to told me to be, and fear because I never experienced life with a president that wasn’t George Bush.

The truth is, I didn’t notice much of a change in the world around me because Barack Obama was president. I still went to school, did my homework, played outside with my friends and got in trouble with my parents.

I watched his speeches on television with my mom as I grew up. He was funny on TV and I liked listening to him speak. I was proud he was my president.

Now it’s Nov. 8, 2016. It’s my 21st birthday. I’m in college and I’m studying political science and mass media. I understand the electoral college to an excessive degree, and the differences between the right and left sides are clear as day.

The radios and television networks are all hands on deck for the newly announced president-elect.

“Donald Trump is the 45th president of the United States.”

People are happy. People are sad. People are angry. I have the same feeling I did on the morning of Nov. 5, 2008. Except this time, I know that not everything is going to change.

I’ll still go to class, I’ll still go to work, and I’ll still want to be a journalist. I’m excited for a new era of presidency but I can’t help but let those nostalgic emotions seep through.

I’ll miss Obama. Not for his political party or for Obamacare, but for the familiarity of having Obama as the president of the United States.

I understand now that Obama did more than just crack dad jokes on TV. I have formed opinions on his foreign and domestic policies over the years just as I have with Donald Trump’s.

But I’ll always have a sort of connection to Obama, the president I grew up with. Political opinions aside, he led the nation in unity and with grace. He spoke to us after the Sandy Hook shootings, after the death of Osama Bin Laden, after gay marriage was legalized, after the Iran Nuclear Deal and after mending U.S. relations in Cuba.

Obama was in no way a perfect president, but as that young teen watching from the couch for eight years, he inspired me and made me want to follow him without hesitation. When I was unsure of the world, he was the man on TV that made me feel like everything was going to be okay.

So thanks, Obama.

Thanks for shattering the ice as the first black president. Thanks for comfort through difficult times. Thanks for changing my perspective on national politics. And thank you for being the leader I needed growing up.

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