On November 4, 2008 President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama, joined by their two beautiful daughters took the stage with huge smiles and waving as the crowd chanted “Yes We Can!” It was a beautiful moment in American history as the election of President Obama seemed to shatter a glass ceiling for many African Americans in this country and around the world. The following eight years, as great as they have been, have shown that we have so far to go in racial relations and that electing a Black president did not rid America of centuries of racial tension and strife. Through the ups and downs, President Obama and his family have remained a pillar of grace, class, and dignity. Despite all of the name-calling and disrespect shown by domestic and foreign leaders, they managed to keep their composure and execute arguably the hardest job in the world.
The legacy that the President and First Lady leave is one of the epitome of excellence. The two of them have raised the bar in every feasible way of what it means to be the family in the White House. President Obama was handed an economy in ruins, two unnecessary wars, and a country that questioned if it was ready to have a Black president. In eight years, he has had continuous job growth, brought thousands of troops home, and has done his best to answer some of the hard racial questions that have come up during his time in office. Through the Affordable Care Act, he gave 16.4 million people access to healthcare, got rid of preexisting conditions as a reason for being denied coverage, mandated inclusion of birth control and IUDs, and so much more. First Lady Michelle Obama took on healthcare in her own way, launching her “Let’s Move” campaign encouraging kids to exercise and eat right in order to combat childhood obesity, a growing problem in America. With the help of Beyoncé, Michelle Obama danced all across the country at elementary schools, on late night talk shows, at carnivals and festivals, and everywhere else to support her message.
This administration has been the most diverse in history and has truly made the White House the people’s house.
They gave a voice to people who before never thought they had an ally or were invisible to the government. As sitting President and First Lady, Barack and Michelle Obama gave commencement addresses at HBCUs, hosted African dance classes and Black history month celebrations, and truly did their best to incorporate the voice of so many who paved the way for them to be there.
In her farewell speech last week, the First Lady made a point to tell “young people to not lose heart” in America and that serving as First Lady has been the “honor of her lifetime.” Coming of age while a Black woman was serving in the White House has been so formative for so many young girls across the country and her light will continue to shine even though she no longer lives there. Though most people know that she was reluctant to take over the role of First Lady, she has definitely broken the mold and made it her own. While serving alongside her husband, Michelle Obama has shown us how to maintain a loving marriage, raise children, keep a balanced diet, speak out on issues that matter, and look flawless while doing it. She has single-handedly raised the bar for what it means to be First Lady and as a country we are better for having her as an example.
During President Obama’s farewell address last night, he echoed similar statements about his optimism about America. He talked about the future of America being in the hands of young people and that made him feel more positive than ever. One more time, he took to a stage and inspired us all to build and organize for the country that we want to see. The way that President Obama resonated with young people forever changes the way a president interacts with the country. His campaign and presidency made central issues that mattered to communities of color, women, LGBT issues, and so many others that before had been on the periphery.
It is truly exemplary of the first Black president and First Lady to leave us talking the same way they did when they came into the White House. Despite the election results, the Obamas thought it best to leave us with the reminder of “hope” and “yes we can.”
Because of the Obamas, we can say, “yes we did.”