Oftentimes we don’t understand the good we have until it’s gone. We don’t realize the value of a time, place, experience or relationship that no longer exists until a chance memory calls us back with power and longing to the once familiar place we left behind.
In this post-Obama America, I often find myself longing for the days of the Obama presidency. I was amazed when Barack Hussein Obama became the first African-American elected president of the country our white founding fathers created in 1776 with a brilliant constitution that ushered in a new form of government, but refused to acknowledge the humanity of millions of enslaved African men and women
Those founding fathers could never have conceived that one day Barack Obama would be born from the union of an African father and a white mother, and that his birth would change the history of America.
In every generation someone is born who leaves the world profoundly changed forever. Barack Obama became that person for our generation when he launched a historic presidential campaign and shattered the glass ceiling into a million lovely pieces.
Along with many other African-Americans, I was excited and elated to watch Mr. Obama’s meteoric rise to the highest office in the nation, and it was such an amazing journey. It represented so much to so many, that someone who looked like our fathers, brothers and sons could become president
In my dreams, he appeared without warning and was ready to become president in one spontaneous, glorious moment of creation, the same way Athena the goddess of war was birthed from the head of her father Zeus, fully formed and clothed in armor.
Of course, I understood Mr. Obama had really been preparing for a lifetime to become president. He was preparing even before the seeds of greatness and a dream had been planted and nurtured in his heart, and before he understood his true destiny would demand he lead a country.
Like a master weaver creating an intricate tapestry Mr. Obama’s life experiences were miraculously woven together to produce the knowledge, wisdom, compassion, and humility he needed to become the first black president of the United States.
He was preparing to lead a nation when he was a small boy growing up in Hawaii without a father and with family that did not look like him, and he was preparing when he struggled with issues of racial identity as a young man.
He was preparing when he was a college student called “Barry,” who was still trying to find his way in the world, and when he became the first African-American editor of the Harvard law Review.
I remember his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, where he presented a vision for a new America that made me long for something I didn’t even know was possible in the land of Lincoln and Jefferson, where the haunting specter of Jim Crow could still be seen in the shadows and hidden places, where discrimination still flourished and grew like weeds that spring up and strangle the wild flowers that dare to share the soil.
I watched the frenzied news coverage as he masterfully wrestled the democratic nomination away from Hilary Clinton, like a modern-day David refusing to fear the giant or even pausing to acknowledge there was a giant somewhere in the room.
On inauguration day President Obama assured the country he would be a president for all Americans. He acknowledged the existence of racism, but did not dwell there. With confidence and boldness, he told us about his vision for a new America, which included the promise of health care for the uninsured.
Mr. Obama intuitively understood that we can only make America great by embracing a philosophy of tolerance and inclusiveness for the LGBT community and all racial, religious and ethnic groups. He encouraged us to build bridges of understanding not walls of exclusion.
He knew decency required us to celebrate and embrace the thousands of Dreamers who came to this country as children nurtured by the hopes and heartache of parents who dreamed that one day like the grand promise engraved on our Statue of Liberty America would offer acceptance to them and their children.
Whenever the country was in crisis Mr. Obama decisively answered the call to leadership. He ordered the successful military operation that ended with the death of terrorist Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 911 attacks.
When innocents were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary school President Obama offered words of comfort to let us know he too was grieving the senseless loss of so many young lives to gun violence. After the jury acquittal in the Trayvon Martin case, Mr. Obama encouraged calm but acknowledged the sadness of many when he said Trayvon could have been my son.
When a disturbed man in South Carolina murdered black parishioners, who offered him prayer President Obama joined with the community to honor the dead and sing amazing grace how sweet the sound.
President Obama was the one we looked to when our hearts and minds were challenged by the fear and uncertainty of living in a world where domestic and foreign terrorists claim the divine right to murder and maim others in the name of religion.
And when a white supremacist killed a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia, who was peacefully protesting against his message of hate, Mr. Obama quoted Nelson Mandela and reminded us that people are not born hating, “and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love…For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
In these uncertain times where the rhetoric of power is oftentimes about division and dominance we need to remember that President Obama always challenged us to be our best by practicing generosity and acceptance instead of sowing seeds of rancor, distrust, and discord. I am desperately trying to hold onto the memories, but in my heart, I am still missing Obama.