As far as I’m concerned, January 20, 2017, does not matter.
President Obama will still be president and the first Black first family will always live at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. However, a small dose of reality came my way as I read a heartfelt good bye note from the desk of my friend David Johns, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. It hit me: President Barack Obama’s term is really ending.
My stomach began to turn as though I was experiencing the loss of a family member. After all, I have been invested in Obama’s Presidency since the beginning. I left my (good paying) job back in 2008 to help get him elected in Ohio. I donated money and I even moved to Washington, D.C. in hopes of landing a position in his administration (that didn’t happen). So for those reasons and a few others, I, like many Black Americans, will believe he’s the president forever and will love him no matter what.
For starters, the election of President Obama was unprecedented and his leadership was equally symbolic. “President Obama reminded Black people that we can—and should—participate in the political process,” reflects Edward Jones 55, of Washington, D.C.
Among his many accomplishments, Obama gave the country its first Affordable Care Act, facilitated equality for the LGBT community, founded My Brother’s Keeper, reconciled international relations with Cuba and Iran and spearheaded a $787 billion stimulus package when we were on the brink of financial disaster. Did he make mistakes? Yes. Was he able to please all people? Nope. Yet, in spite of his imperfections, he led this country with a humility and confidence that makes us so proud. Furthermore, “President Obama overcame the adversity of getting his agenda pushed through even when he didn’t have the complete support of Congress or even his own party,” recalls Howard Conyers, Ph.D., 35, New Orleans, Louisiana. How admirable is that?!
We’ll also love President Obama no matter what because he has the integrity that many politicians today lack. Although the demands put upon him were great, he never once folded under pressure.
“He did something that many of his predecessors were unable to do, he had a presidency free of scandal and drama. He walked with integrity and decency and showed the world that you don’t have to cut corners or work in the shadows to get things done,” reflects David Street, 31 of Washington, D.C. “He is the quintessential strong, Black man,” adds Ebony Costain, 34 of Petersburg, Virginia.
Not only did President Obama serve with undeniable integrity, he led with swag and unapologetic blackness that captured our hearts. We witnessed POTUS code switch to dap up his fellow Black brothers. We heard “Rev. Obama” deliver his poignant speeches and eulogies. And, it seemed like every week an African-American cultural icon was in the White House. Let’s not forget when POTUS sang, “Let’s Stay Together” or when DJ Nice had all the cool black kids swag surfing in the White House. If that ain’t black, I don’t know what is!
President Obama will forever be our President because he and Mrs. Obama opened the White House and made it the “People’s House.” Ezinne Kwubiri, 34, of New York City, shared that for her, “their dedication making the White House the people’s house is remarkable!” They made the dreams come true of community leaders like Mrs. Virginia McLaurin, who at age 106 never imagined “a black President” and his “Black wife” would be our POTUS and FLOTUS. I cry tears of joy every time I watch Mrs. McLaurin dance into the Blue Room and exclaim how honored she is to be in the presence of President Obama. “I’m here to celebrate black history. Yeah, that’s what I’m here for,” she said that day.
The election of the 44th President is part of who we are as African Americans. When one of us makes it, we all make it. President Obama is a son, brother, cousin, uncle, and friend to us all. Not only will his Presidency live in the homes of Black Americans, “worthy of a spot on our walls, like our elders once reserved for King, Kennedy and Jesus,” describes Jones, it will live in our hearts.
When I asked my 60-something-year-old mother why she loves Obama so much, she said, “His Presidency has shown African-American children that they can be anything they want to be. He held his position with honor, grace, and dignity and he walked in his own truth.” President Obama is in a class by himself and as my mother says, “In this house, Barack will always be President.”
Ebonie Johnson Cooper is a seminary student, nonprofit communications consultant and an occasional freelance writer. She loves to travel and dreams of the day she’ll be a barista in a small café in her favorite city in Spain. Follow her on Instagram @EJCPrayLove.