Obama Is All I’ve Known

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Will Slater For today’s second graders, Donald Trump will be the president of their childhoods, the president that defines what it means to be president Being born late in 1999, I’ve lived under three Presidents: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Really though, I’ve only lived under one. Clinton only lasted a few months and even Bush lead too early in the 2000s for me to have any awareness beyond a passing newspaper headline or an occasional remark by a teacher or parent. It wasn’t until the Obama years that I was old enough to look at the world around me with any bit of clarity, and in that sense, he’s been the only president of my lifetime. Obama will forever be the president of my childhood. The only American government I’ve known outside of the history textbook, is the government that has been molded around and shaped by Barack Obama. As such, he will be the measuring stick with which I’ll judge Donald Trump, and perhaps the presidents that come after. Even Obama’s style of speech and the way in which he communicates with the public is uniquely presidential to people our age. Maybe it’s because we have nothing to compare him to. The reality is, when a young person claims that a politician is or is not presidential, they’re judging that politician’s similarities to Obama, for better or worse. Even toddlers and lower schoolers must have this realization. For today’s second graders, Donald Trump will be the president of their childhoods, the president that defines what it means to be president. A president, popular or not, is a role model for the embodiment of power and leadership. A president inspires, explains, consoles. A president is the voice of a nation. As Obama has been our generation’s only President, the gravity of his election in 2008 is widely lost on us. Sure, we’ve learned about America’s vast and disgusting racial history, a history that continues today in spite of Obama. We know that never before had there been an African American president. Still though, there’s nothing out of the ordinary about having a black president to us, nothing profound or unbelievable at least. To the generations that came before, that welcomed decades of white presidents without pause, having a black president is and was a monumental step forward, a step some were ready for and some weren’t. At eight, I suspect that my peers, like myself, had political opinions dictated by those of their parents. But at this stage, maybe we’re starting to think for ourselves. Probably not, but maybe, and if so, this presidency has been both revealing and informative. Obama’s decisions over recent years have been a sample from which we have begun to form our own political opinions. What’s worked? What hasn’t? Plenty of nostalgia spilled into this article, but there remain many legitimate questions for this administration, just as there has been plenty of progress to celebrate. All of it can be learned from. These years could have been formative, whether they’ve pushed you further left or right, pulled you all the way to the other side, or dropped you somewhere in the middle.    For me personally, there’s been something circular about Obama’s presidency. I remember my mom holding my hand, navigating me through the crowded streets of downtown Denver in 2008, trying to soak in the excitement of the DNC, about to take place in my hometown. I for weeks proudly wore a shirt from the convention that is somehow still too big (I thought I’d be taller than I ended up being). Now it’s 2017, and I only occasionally need my mom’s help getting through crowded streets, but I once again found myself in the same city as Obama, as he gave his farewell address. Reflecting on these already fading eight years, it’s my hope that as a generation, we can embody some of the best qualities of our first president, namely, his flaming, transcendent gift for hope. To Trump supporters, we enter a period of optimism, having elected a president who you see as a true man of the people. To Trump’s dissenters, the coming years are a little more uncertain. Anyone, though, who embraces Obama’s creed, teenagers most of all, should look forward with hope. Maybe that’s Obama’s legacy. ]]>