I watch the President’s face reflecting back the roar of the crowd gathered for his farewell address to the American people. As he graciously and emphatically thanks the raucous crowd, his smile weakens slightly, revealing first a glimmer of embarrassment at the adulation, then a slight sense of impatience. The man has things to say, but the crowd wants to hold him in the loving embrace of an impossible dream. The farewell of the Obama administration is a gut-wrenching about-face from the past eight years of dignity, inclusion, and hope. The very act of his farewell speech is acknowledgement of what no one in this crowd is looking forward to and so the roar is slow to diminish.
I will miss this shining moment in American history. I will miss these past eight years of watching a transformative president lead by example, imploring his fellow Americans to listen to each other as he has tried to listen to them__all of them, not only his followers but his detractors as well. He has been a president of the people__the ordinary people, not the corporations bent on purchasing power.
To the end Barack Obama implores us, implores Americans to “guard against cynicism,” to “focus on making life better for those to follow,” to keep democracy alive by being involved. He reminds us that the threats from within our country are as palpable as the threats from outside. The threats of racism, fear, and intolerance are alive and beating in this country and we must not step back and allow those threats to derail the majestic principles and hopes upon which this country was founded.
There are some in this country who fear others who look, or speak, or pray differently. Those people, if they watched the President’s speech, most likely never saw beyond the racial stereotypes of Obama’s African heritage. They do not hear the message of hope and love that comes directly from Obama’s heart through his mouth. Perhaps more ominous, those people do not realize that brown skins are as American as pink skins. And if America fails to hear her brown voices, the future will see a new type of civil war.
“The long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion.” Our democracy was born of bitter arguments and differences of opinion, but in the end, compromise brought all sides together to form a better union, to forge a common purpose and a sense of solidarity. Our constitution was a result of that solidarity. But that constitution is but a piece of paper. It has no power without we, the people, to act upon it, to keep it alive and responsive, to live by the laws and codes of the nation, laws and codes that were born out of the dream of freedom for all Americans.
As he wraps up his exhortations to us to be involved, to embrace the constant change that is the beauty of America, Barack turns his attention to his wife, his family, and his staff. Once again, the crowd erupts in a roar of applause. This time, the president shows no embarrassment or impatience. He welcomes adoration for Michelle. This is just one of her shining moments and she deserves every decibel of it. I have loved being led by a president whose eye’s leak, just looking at his wife, or acknowledging his first pick, Vice President Joe Biden.
No matter what happens in the coming years, no one can erase the inspiration that Obama’s presidency has provided for the generations to come. And now, we breathe a collective sigh of relief as we acknowledge the unspeakable fear that haunted us for eight years__Barack Obama lives! I look forward to the Obama’s second act. We still need them, we need their leadership, their courage, and their ebullient optimism. How long before America welcomes our first brown-skinned woman standing on the presidential podium? The dream lives on.
All images courtesy Flickr: US Government Works