One cold night, the entire fourth grade huddled around the projector in the classroom, excitedly monitoring the screen, which was constantly being updated with new results and numbers. The next morning, we woke up to a pancake breakfast and a new president—Barack Obama.
As we grew up, Obama was always there. During my fifth grade graduation; during the days when the name Osama bin Laden provoked fear; during the cold December day when little kids and teachers were slaughtered in a mass shooting at Newtown; when I first stepped through the front doors of PHS; when the seeds of the Arab Spring were sown; when ISIS became a household name; when I took APUSH my sophomore year. And now, in my final year of high school, just as I’m preparing to leave home, Obama is also preparing to leave his home: the White House. In less than one month, Donald Trump will sit in the Oval Office and become our country’s leader.
The day after the election, I woke up feeling scared; alone; frightened. As if I were in the midst of a bad dream. Trump’s platform and ideals throughout the election had threatened everything about my very existence in this country: as an immigrant; a female; the sister of a brother with special needs. And frankly, although many people have hope that Trump as POTUS won’t be like Trump the Candidate, I’m not quite sure that will be the case. The people that Trump has nominated to be in his Cabinet seem to be just like him—if not worse.
Transitioning from Obama to Trump seems like a case of cognitive dissonance. Obama’s term is the exact antithesis of what Trump campaigned for. Obama taught me during the most formative years of my life that yes, I do belong in this country—that I am safe here.
In 2008, Obama taught us that yes we can fight and create change we believe in. Eight years later, that still rings true. His constant presence—both domestically and on the world stage—has been a stabilizing force in an increasingly unstable world. Whether it be during the turbulence of the financial crisis or the horror of numerous mass shootings or attacks, President Obama has always stood by us. Lending us his calm and at times raw emotion, the President was always honest and upfront with the American people.For half of my life, the only President I have ever known is Barack Hussein Obama, a self-described skinny kid with a funny name. His administration has served as a testament to his character and unfailing purity. Free of scandal or self-defacement, Obama showed to the world both the dynamism as well as the enduring perseverance of his country.
Obama brought to his office a warm combination of both stoicism and wit. From his jokes at the annual turkey pardoning—much to the chagrin of Malia and Sasha—to his confident “I won two of ’em” when speaking to congress about his election wins, the Presidency was always a position of authority as well as approachableness.
Whether it be the young black boy who stepped into the Oval Office and asked “Is your hair the same as mine?” or my classmates back on that day in 2008, Obama has raised the expectations of the office of the President for an entire generation. As the sun sets on the end of an era and ominous fortunes lie on the horizon, it will always be a unique privilege to have witnessed, firsthand, the greatness of Barack Obama. Regardless of policy or politics, he was a man of unique and profound greatness and I will be forever grateful to have grown up alongside him.