Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The First Time President Obama Spoke To Me

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 27: US President Barack Obama and Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton wave to the crowd on the third day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 27, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Philadelphia, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Democratic National Convention kicked off July 25. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
You know, I was sitting here thinking why has this speech, this moment, moved me so much! And I think I've figured it out...
Bear with me.
This was not the first homerun speech I've heard the President make...not even close. In fact, his greatest homerun speech was also delivered in Philadelphia back in 2008, in the midst of that Jeremiah Wright "God Damn America" race scandal.
No, it wasn't just that he gave a great speech.
Let me explain.
I've gone thru phases with Barack.
Initially I think I was so taken with him because, well, he was a black man on the world's stage, holding his own and being taken very seriously as a candidate to lead the country, versus a candidate that by all accounts was a shoo-in to win. I'm talking Hillary, here.
He was taken seriously in places where I had believed it was impossible for a black man to be taken seriously. In that heartland he described in the speech. In places like Iowa! I was like 'get the eff outta here! He won in IOWA?" Yep, Iowa.
After that he had my, and the country's, undivided attention. This was no Jesse Jackson.
Then in New Hampshire, where he got licked by Hillary, even in defeat, he gave the speech that defined his campaign, the much vaunted "Yes We Can" speech...and then he was off to the races, taking a healthy number of the remaining primaries and caucuses along the way, and giving moving speeches throughout.
The crowds kept swelling, and the rhetoric kept soaring.
And I was rapt.
The next phase of my Barack adoration, was once I was over the "black" thing, and started focusing in on the message and how effective it was.
Change. Hope. America Made ME Possible. More Unites Us Than Divides Us. Yes We Can. We Are Not Blue States and Red States, We're The UNITED States. 
While there have always been black leaders, and scholars, and thinkers who were eloquent and thoughtful, most of them either for some reason intimidated the masses, were incapable of connecting with them, or were taken from us much too soon. Few sought the political top slot. So I was so thrilled that finally there was a black man that white people felt comfortable listening to, who was saying the things that needed to be said in a way that not only didn't result in people retreating to their racial silos, but actually galvanized people into activism on his campaign's behalf.
He was telling people who needed to hear it, and were indeed eager to hear it, that the time had come to embrace change, to insist upon it, even. That anything less was beneath the dignity of Americans. He implored them to find the audacity to hope, to unearth the courage to face the adversities ahead, and rise above the pettiness that has held us back and kept us divided. He inspired people to reject the notions that have deprived us of our best and brightest (which he clearly represented) for far too long. That only together can we accomplish this.
He utilized universal values and unifying principles, to sell people on the idea of a truly UNITED states. And people felt compelled to agree with him (or at least indulge him), or face up to the fact that they were hypocrites and that America was not a democracy, just an hypocrisy wearing the mask of a republic.
I LOVED that people had begun to actually listen and respond...In HUGE numbers, on all the stations, all over the internet, all over the world. People were showing him unprecedented love.
White people.
He was talking to them.
I never felt I was the target of those speeches. And if I were the target, then he was preaching to the choir.
Many black Americans (I wanna say most) knew (believed) that it was mostly the attitudes of many White Americans that was keeping the United States of America from uniting, from being the great country many a president had had the audacity to call it over the centuries. In addition to hard work and ingenuity, black Americans survived 400 years of tyranny and genocide due to our faith, the audacity to hope, and our prayers for change, imploring the Creator to show our oppressors the light so that WE, our country, might become a more perfect union. We prayed God would teach them, our former masters, the true meaning of freedom, and the error of their ways.
So, nah, he didn't have to tell us that change was imperative. That would be redundant.


When I went to Pennsylvania in 2008 to canvass door to door for the Obama campaign, in lily white communities, I was greeted fearlessly with open arms. I was the one afraid.
It was shocking. And beautiful. It felt miraculous, what he was accomplishing.
Saviour-type miraculous.
I began to feel pride at being an American...for the FIRST time in my life! Just like Michelle Obama had said in 2008. I felt the SAME way she felt. THIS was an America I had never seen before, and frankly didn't think was possible.
Today, marked a new first.
For today, I didn't listen to Barack and feel his eloquence was aimed solely at White Americans.
Well, yeah, there was a portion of that speech that was aimed at Republicans (majority white). That whole section about the values of his white Grandparents and of the heartland...that was, no doubt, aimed at republicans who aren't feeling Trump's bombast, braggadocio and utter lack of humility, and don't feel Trump represents their values at all. Barack clearly intended to snatch up some stray independent and republican votes for Hillary.
But for the FIRST time in 12 years, I felt a speech of his, THIS speech, spoke directly to ME!!
I was the democrat that he felt needed inspiration.
I was the one demonizing Hillary.
I was the one who entertained the notion of a Trump presidency longer than any rational person should.
I was the one unable to see that America IS in better shape than it was, focused as I was, almost solely and justifiably on issues of injustice and inhumanity against black bodies (issues which have not been resolved).
I was the one ready to throw out the baby with the bathwater, who was beginning to believe wholeheartedly that America needs an industrial-sized enema and Trump fits the bill.
I felt sad, cynical, angry, disillusioned, disenchanted.
My forecast danced dangerously and intimately with apathy and despair. I needed something I was beginning to believe did not exist.
Until today.
Until Barack spoke to ME, cut through my cynicism like a chainsaw through oak.
I don't wanna over dramatize it. But I felt the need to mark this as a turning point in my attitude towards the current state of my country and the world, and prospects for the future.
Leaders are supposed to find and bring out the best in people, or remind them that they too are leaders. And leaders should use their time and energy to bring out the best in themselves and others. Obama does that. And clearly Hillary has as well.
Today's speech did that for me. Just another reason to love the man, I guess.
Thank you, Mr. President.
obama and me

No comments:

Post a Comment