Gotta give em’ hope

November 10th, 2016

I don’t know about you, but I’m really, really, going to miss President Obama.

In my first ever presidential election that I could participate in, I cast my ballot to re-elect him. On that fateful morning of November 8th in 2012, I threw on my formal school uniform (there was mass that day) and trussed my Dad’s oversized American flag tie in a fluted, playful knot.  In my excitement, I practically fell over myself running to the polls before school. Because I told anyone who would listen to me in line that it was my first election, the quaint old ladies who operated the polls knew to clap their frail hands and whistle wildly through drug store lipstick as I sent my ballot through the electronic checker.

When we re-elected President Obama, I felt tear after of relief and happiness fall from my eyes. My gratitude for his re-appointment wasn’t even necessarily a partisan one,  our country would have been very capable hands with Mitt Romney. It was more so for the realization that our country was able to make history not just once, but twice, by electing the first ever black president and triumphantly telling the world that our progress wasn’t a fluke; it was where we were headed.

The other day, I was looking at the photos from President Obama’s annual Trick or Treat at the White House, where local Washingtonian and military families get to celebrate the spookiest day of the year with the folks who run their country.  

Although all the costumes were cute enough to feel your heart strings being tugged, there was one that really got me. One little boy, who looked remarkably similar to POTUS, dressed up like Obama himself, complete with a crisp blue suit, red tie and American flag pin. In the photo, the tiny little person with  delicate chestnut hair and wide brown eyes looked up at his president a moved his miniature hand in the motion of a salute.

I may have just been sleep deprived from the academic chaos that is senior year, but when I looked at this photo, I couldn’t help but to tear up.

For this first 232 years of our nation’s history, we elected solely white men from economically and socially affluent backgrounds. Although many of these men had service-oriented hearts and were civically minded, others never understood the plight of the folks they governed due to their elitist past. Not to mention the fact that only a fraction of their constituents ever came from a similar background.

What makes me so happy about this photo is that the little boy hasn’t known a world without an Obama. Yes, he will inevitably face the snares of racism that our country bears. And no, one black president out of 44 presidents isn’t arguing that any semblance absolute racial equality has been found.

However, electing President Obama, in my opinion, will have sincerely positive ramifications down the road. If you’re not a democrat, you should at least be able to admit that there is something comforting about the fact that, for the first time, a section of the population other than white men can look to their leader and genuinely think, “Hey, that can be me.”

My hope, of course, is that in a week from now, little girls hold their heads a little higher. And in the coming elections, women of color, the LGBTQ community, latinx populations, folks of Arab descent, those with an Asian heritage and citizens from a variety of faith communities will one day be represented in the highest office of the nation.

Although I started my piece with Obama, I’d like to end with a little something by Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay elected official in California.  In one of his speeches, Milk addressed the importance of progress and hope.

“Somewhere in Des Moines or San Antonio, there is a young gay person, who all of a sudden realizes that she or he is gay. That child feels like the have two options; stay in the closet or suicide. And then one day that child may open the paper that says “homosexual elected in San Francisco,” and there are two new options; to go to California or stay in San Antonio and fight. You’ve got to elect gay people so that child and the thousands upon thousands like that child know that there’s hope for a better world.  Without hope, not only gays, but blacks, asians, disabled, seniors, the “us’s,” give up. I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you, and you, and you, you’ve gotta give em’ hope.”