I was 12 years old the day of Barack Obama’s first inauguration. Through a campaign of hope and change, Obama galvanized tens of millions of citizens with promises of a better and more inclusive America. Although I was too young to vote or know much about politics, I felt just as optimistic as anyone else during the historic event.
I decided to stay home from school and watch the inauguration with my parents. We were enthralled by what he said to the nation following years of war and economic strife. My mother watched his inaugural address in tears, overjoyed by the prospects of a man that had quickly become a beacon of hope for so many immigrants across the nation. He spoke eloquently, commanding a sense of dignity and patriotism that filled us with hope.
In the small gaps of time between family life and school, I observed a rapidly changing world with the rest of the country in the news. I recall when the Affordable Care Act was passed. I recall seeing the country cheer when Osama bin Laden was killed. I recall seeing the country weep when 20 kids were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I recall the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on same-sex marriage. I recall seeing protesters in the street when Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson.
The past eight years were productive and controversial, inspiring hope and political rancor from both sides of the aisle. There were several aspects of Obama’s vision that became reality, while certain issues were too sensitive to resolve. I was disheartened that immigration became one of the most contentious subjects on Capitol Hill, where the unwavering ire of nativism remains a stubborn force. Nevertheless, I appreciated the president’s efforts to speak for a minority group that has been neglected for too long.
In a country where millions are left in the dark under the constant threat of deportation, Barack Obama was the single strongest voice in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform. This is the Obama I’ve respected and admired for so long – an empathetic man who demonstrated time and time again how a true leader should act in the face of criticism and adversity.
Even after his party’s crushing defeat in the 2016 election, President Obama committed himself to assisting the new president in the peaceful transition of power. To me, that’s what class is all about. Thank you, President Obama. Thank you for giving me, along with tens of millions of people of all ages, a reason to hope.
Israel Aragon is a sophomore majoring in psychology.
Featured image courtesy Flickr user Valar Mathi