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On Critique and Praise of President Obama

As of January 20, 2017, the United States Presidency as we know it will be no longer. Barack, Michelle, Sasha, and Malia will cease occupation of the White House and enter American society as citizens, albeit as the former First Family. President Obama’s staff has minimized, his cabinet members have removed the last items from their offices, the press core is nearly empty, and millions of Americans are sitting on edge.

The election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States of America caused millions of Americans, and the world alike, to raise the question, “how could this happen?” Yet the optimism, hope, and belief of and in the American people from President Barack H. Obama has given us a glimmer of hope. His remarks and hopefulness do not erase the homophobia, racism, sexism, and xenophobia of Donald Trump, instead it further reveals and amplifies that which will no longer reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Barack Hussein Obama has given us, the American people, hope, optimism, dignity, pride, a sense of belonging, and security. The days have been long. The adversity has been unprecedented. The challengers continue to rise. Nevertheless, Barry continues to defy the odds. Born in Hawaii to a white mother and black father, he was raised by his white, Kansas native grandparents. Through these individuals he was given a solid foundation of faith, morals, values, and longing optimism. Later, in his 20s, he relocated to Chicago and made an intentional decision to live not as a biracial man, but as a black man in America. What ensued next was a journey which only God could orchestrate.

On November 4, 2008 Barack Hussein Obama was elected to the Presidency of the United States of America. We, the USA, finally had a black President; and not by default. We now had an African American male occupying the most influential and powerful position in the world. The journey to the presidency was one full of racism, phobia, falsehoods, caricatures, doubts, fake news, and more. Yet, the “yes we can” attitude and motto of our President was embodied and exuded with full stride.

The election of President Barack Obama marked a new chapter in American history. Our first black president was elected, yet no one could predict what was to come over the next four years. Fort Hood, Tucson, Aurora, Wisconsin, Sandy Hook… Charleston. Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Terence Crutcher, Alton Sterling… Philando Castile. No President in modern American history has endured more major shootings. And none could’ve expected the unimaginable deaths of black men at the hands of police, or that despite video evidence the guilty would be found innocent. These moments often caused me to question my President.

“Does he get it? Why won’t he just speak what we know is evident? Has he forgotten about us? Bruh, you do know you’re black?” Hindsight is a wonderful and even damning thing. How could I forget that this was the same man who was drawn as a monkey numerous times, called a Muslim despite his apparent practice of Christianity, and told by Congressional leaders they would do everything in their power to make him a “one term President.” A man whose birth certificate was questioned and whose wife was labeled an “angry black woman”. This same man was now being questioned by me, a 20 something year old man, on his blackness and relatability. Not because I didn’t think he cared, but because I wanted him to speak up, and part of me didn’t want him to be so presidential.

Some viewed Obama as “Black America’s President”, others viewed him as our “answer.” However, such thinking is detrimental to some degree, as he was not just our President, but the President of the entire nation. He was held to a higher standard by the black community than any other President. We expected him to speak out clearly on Chicago. We expected him to speak out clearly in support of HBCUs and urban and rural public education. We anticipated and expected him to act swiftly on injustice, police relations, racism, dispelling stereotypes, unemployment, and other issues. We expected him to embrace the issues of Black America beyond founding My Brother’s Keeper and participating in an ESPN show at North Carolina A&T State University.

You have every right to critique his contributions, but the truth is that the acts of our President over his eight years in office have moved our country forward. He rescued us from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, revived the auto industry, established the Affordable Care Act, facilitated the killing of Osama bin Laden, ended the war in Iraq, reformed student loans and Pell Grant spending, and even won a Nobel Peace Prize and reelection. The President’s record may not reflect all that you wanted him to achieve, but his presidency did bring hope and change to America. His presidency inspired the next generation. His presidency brought a glimmer of light to a tainted America.

As a result, a piece of hope was given to a young black male. A snippet of optimism was given to a young black lawyer. An anecdote of desire was revived in a young black entrepreneur. The mere presence of Barack and Michelle Obama at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue changed the course for African American, Asian American, Latino, Hispanic, and countless other minorities in this country. We had change we could believe in because the change was literally residing in the White House.

President Obama symbolizes just how far America has come and how much further it has to go. The campaign of PEOTUS Donald J. Trump and his twitter rants further intensify how far the United States is from the mark.

I will abstain from viewing the inauguration as John Lewis, Maxine Waters, and nearly 50 other Democratic members of Congress do the same. My reasoning is personal and cannot be put simply into words, yet, it is expressed through my displeasure and disdain for racism, phobia, bigotry, and bias. Nevertheless, I will look steadfastly towards the light at the end of the tunnel, as I know there is work to be done. I leave with this:.

Barack “Barry” Hussein Obama, I thank you, admire you, love you, appreciate you, and will miss you as our President. I saw you elected and sworn in at 14 years old, voted for you in 2012 as a freshman in college, and now watch as a college graduate and Youth Pastor as you leave the White House and enter the next phase of your life. Your countless sacrifices are noted, as well as your untiring labor and loyalty to the American people. You did not allow partisanship to hinder your leadership or effectiveness, and you exemplified perseverance in the midst of anticipated, expected, and deliberate opposition. You and First Lady Obama graced the White House better than any others. Not scandal or drama, but class, dignity, and grace have represented this country and been the example to the nation and world. Thank you Sasha and Malia for allowing us to borrow your father, admire your mother, and share your greatest assets with the world. Enjoy this time President Obama, and I know you’ll keep fighting for the people.

By Jamar Boyd II

Jamar is a graduate of Georgia Southern University '16.​ His work on campus has been highlighted in the Georgia Southern University newspapers and student run magazines. Jamar was the initial feature in the series entitled "Black Stories Matter" in The George Anne, stemming from his summer 2015 experience speaking in Charleston, SC, on race in America and race and racism at Georgia Southern University. An avid reader and writer, his work can be read on his ​blog.