*Editor’s Note* – This is Article #2 of our tutorial derived from coiski 101: 5 Steps on Taking a Stance in an Article.
There is nearly universal agreement that two things are forbidden from casual conversation among people you do not regularly converse with. Even if you feel you know this person or group of people: you simply do not indulge in the taboo topics of politics and religion. Longstanding social media “friendships” disintegrate in a matter of minutes as people furiously punch the UNFOLLOW button after a heated exchange about the validity of – or objection to – particular Presidential candidates. This, however, is not that article. I am not here to impose my personal beliefs or political ideas on any of you. Instead of debating the policies of Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, or popular write-in candidate Mickey Mouse, we want to look at the legacy of Barack Obama. With personal biases in relation to his degree of effectiveness aside, it is difficult to argue his level of influence.
In my nearly 24 (at the time) years of life, I had never seen such a galvanized effort to get people, specifically those of color, to vote. Diddy, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, David Banner, Nas, Common, and Alicia Keys were just a few of the major celebrities pushing the voting initiative. They used the customary concerts and rallies, as well as, previously unconventional platforms, such as BET’s 106 and Park, to voice their support for Obama and encourage those who traditionally don’t vote to do so in 2008. With the swelling of Obama support came the increase of detractors. The Obama backing begin to reverberate so boisterously that those with opposing views had to elevate the intensity of their support as well.
Did it work? Depends on how you look at it. According to Census.gov, voter turnout was the highest among African-American and Hispanics “for any presidential election since the U.S. Census Bureau began consistently measuring citizenship status in 1996.” However, the overall percentage of registered voters only increased from 89% to 90% from 2004 to 2008. I can’t definitively tell you if that 1% is due to the vigorous campaigning or not. What I can tell you is November 4, 2008 was the first time I, a young black man fully immersed in the hip hop culture and thoroughly convinced my voted didn’t count, voted.
In 1992, presidential candidate Bill Clinton made a memorable appearance on the popular Arsenio Hall Show. Prior to this, those vying for Commander in Chief stuck to straight-lace media outlets that mirrored the seriousness the position entailed. Clinton broke that mold with the appearance on the urban late night talk show. Not only did he sit and talk with Arsenio, he shocked us all by brandishing his saxophone, tossing on his wayfarer sunglasses, executing a soulful take of “God Bless This Child” and “Heartbreak Hotel” along with the house band. That performance was met with Arsenio’s signature Kool-Aid smile of approval, and the unofficial candidate as the stamp of “Coolest Presidential Candidate Ever.” Two years later, President Clinton was in the public eye of sports, as his beloved Arkansas Razorbacks won the National Championship. More cool points. Despite the considerable amount of clout with “normal” folks, a gap still existed. The Clintons still seemed a bit intangible. A bit abstract.
Fast forward to Barack Obama. Obama may be the most relatable president we have seen; undoubtedly, the most relatable in my lifetime. He has made numerous appearances on talk and radio shows, geared towards various demographics discussing everything from foreign policy to his favorite rappers. We’ve seen him front row at basketball games, throwing jabs at Steph Curry during the Golden State Warriors’ Championship visit to the White House, and even responding to mean tweets about him with witty barbs of his own. Barack held pickup games at the White House; regular, 5 on 5, “I got next”, inconsistent foul calling, arguing game-point pickup games. If you looked hard enough, you can even find a picture of Obama striding to the cup with his t-shirt tucked neatly into a pair of sweatpants in true old-school, ball-playing fashion. Not unlike your coolest uncle at the family get together that believes he still got it while giving a complete synopsis of the topics or activities the youngsters “don’t know nothin’ bout.” Can you imagine any of the other presidents doing as much as shooting a standstill jumper?
The love for hoops, allegiance to Chicago sports teams, singing of Al Green, consistently sharp edge up, and overall cool factor are all endearing characteristics, but only a small portion as to why Obama, to me, will go down as the most influential president of my lifetime. Consider this; there are children as old as 13 years of age that can’t recall a time the United States did not have a black president. When I was that age, the very thought of such a thing seemed so farfetched that kids like me didn’t even consider wanting to be president. Grandmothers and grandfathers around the country cried tears of amazement during the 2009 inauguration. A 55-year old coworker of mine stopped everything just to see Obama walk across the stage on the day he was sworn in. She sat and told me how much this meant to her black mother, who, despite being riddled with Alzheimer’s, sat at full attention on election night. This, however, was not just a when for black people.
This was a win for all people. A win for THE people. It kicked down the door of nepotism and disrupted the photo wall of presidents of past and future. In actuality, Obama winning allowed America to think differently. That win transformed the widespread, though incorrect, belief that a woman as the head of the union is completely unfathomable. For me, my hard pounded, ferociously pumping anxious blood through my veins as I watched Obama greet the crowd the night he won. I thought he would be assassinated right there on live television.
You see, Obama’s reign as President has also brought awareness to one of the ills that have afflicted society for centuries. Race relations are at the lowest point it has been in quite a while, and it started to rear its ugly head during his initial campaign. As many violated the unwritten agreement to not discuss politics during that time, a bulk of those arguments dissolved into discussions of race, and subsequent vitriol among voters. Those discussions further devolved to despicable actions, to which people wanted Obama to react to every time they occurred. He was expected to pick a side other than justice during this difficult and complex times. As ugly as the truth of racism is and as much of a wart as it is on the hand of America’s body, it exists, and now we, as a country, have to face it and deal with it.
Barack Obama came from relative unknown to becoming President of the United States. Always the graceful speaker, he captivated the world during his campaign. However, his personality, charisma, and reformation of age old mindsets are what made him memorable over the past eight years.
His wife, Michelle, has a legacy of her own. Take some time to research the multitude of initiatives she has put in place, and also her own engaging personality that shined through in her car karaoke on The Late Late Show with James Corden. The Obama’s seems like the normal, everyday family that just happened to be the First Family. They appear approachable enough to invite to your family barbeque, and they actually show up with a dish.
Today is November 8; Election Day. Today, we will know who is the next in line to lead the United States of America. Today, we prepare to say goodbye to Barack and Michelle Obama. Politics and approval ratings aside, the Obama’s run in the White House will be one forever etched in the collective memories of the United States of America. He will be missed.
**Note** Read the five steps we implemented in creating this article here.