So as I said we’re going a little different to convention for this post.
Most similar to this is that Keeping up with the Joneses post, where it’s somewhat a personal subject and I get to expose a little more of myself.
But where to start really?
Well, until a year or so I have been quite ungracious in giving out compliments, for some reason the words always seemed to get stuck in my throat, I think mostly a result of my more wimpish qualities, I think I’ve somehow convinced myself over the years that my voice pales in significance compared to most other people.
Although, in a world of social media battle cries like #formation or #blackgirlmagic or #jesuischarlie, I have been helped along to paying my homages where it’s due … or where possible simply retweeting them.
But thanks to this life-affirming fact; that thing about my newfound bravado, and also my now currently worsening esteem of America ( I love you but I hate you, but why?), I guess I really should get in line to pay my respects to the USA as we’ve come to know them; land of Beyonce, of Diane von Furstenberg, of Hillary Clinton, of Goldman Sachs, of Bloomberg and Saks Fifth Avenue and Hollywood.
Actually, I take that back.
You see America is just too damn big – and bodacious – that I am going to have to reel it in a little and talk on one topic, well on one person, my favourite person. And this is going to surprise you, it isn’t Beyonce although it would be if it weren’t for the reasons I list below. The estimable qualities of this person being so numerous.
You see in 2008 / in the beginning of the Obama presidency, I was not taken with the general sentiment then, of this being historic, a landmark, some poignant achievement people of colour should all celebrate. I am African and British, so there was something immediately distant about the political affairs of America, besides having been born and raised in 90s Nigeria, I had an ‘inherited’ distrust of politicians and fear of far more unsettling things than the role which the colour of skin played in my getting ahead in life. What with growing up against the backdrop of oil rich, economically poor, similarly coloured people.
Michelle Obama however, on so many levels spoke to me, an easy icon for an intellectually keen black girl, my diamond in the rough of exam season back then.
You see I connected with the first lady instantly, even though she wasn’t my first lady. Her face, her style, her presence, her poise, all laid bare in one lifestyle magazine after another but even better her course of action in her capacity as First Lady so elegantly conceived in its’ unifying thread that there was power in being a woman – ’the girl child’ – whether in America or some other far-flung part of the world. Speaking to me in a way that I could relate to.
The President however, had the appearance of a more scattered and divided agenda, this was the height of that 2008 financial crisis. After-all there were peace agreements to be signed, regulation of wall street, public health works, recalling of troops back home, all very foreign, all very distant to me. I almost see why I failed my first degree in Economics.
But then it happened, slowly at first, with a first leap into reading President Obama’s first memoir, a public charm offensive reflecting on his coming age, and coming of self at precisely the time when I also was just beginning to come of age; leaving me with a profound sense of life’s ironies. Had there really been anyone less cut-out to carry the burden of civic duty and serving a public good than this most human character.
Certainly charm and human are little more than the surface attributes to credit the President with. There is his all round credibility, political and otherwise, his keenness to obviously do better, his profoundness, and most importantly all he has accomplished in his capacity as the 44th President of the United States. Accomplishments he recently remarkably credited his administration and team with
“… the remarkable work that they have done day in, day out, often without a lot of fanfare … that make government run better and make it more responsive and make it more efficient, and make it more service-friendly so that it’s actually helping more people. That remarkable work has left the next president with a stronger, better country than the one that existed eight years ago.”
President Obama’s Remarks on Donald Trump’s Election Transcript, Washington Post
Now I know I am already partial in my views on the Obamas, but I am certain even you have over the years come across the humanising qualities of President Obama on display for the world to see. And been made to feel immediately at ease with this, as though he were not some presidential mystery/enigma but a person that you might meet and easily share a laugh with.
Over the years of this presidency as I’ve gone from that first leap where I met the man behind the Presidency, and fell in love with none other than the President’s wife, to this year reading the sister book to that first Memoir: The Audacity of Hope, and what is actually a political manifesto of influences and ideas. Reading it at a time when social issues, and solutions matter more to me, and I was beginning to develop my ideas on how to shape these. I mean are subjects of race more paramount than those of sex or sexuality? Or do we improve the level of employment at a cost to the financial stability offered by wage laws?
Don’t think too much on those. I don’t think we can really address even one of those questions in one article space. It’s just that in considering some of these topics of debate, and the admirable way in which I noticed the then Senator Obama navigate these subjects with balance and measure and optimism. A treatment I can attest to having seen in evidence not just in writing but also in the president’s speech.
“To think clearly about race, then requires us to see the world on a split screen – to maintain in out sights the kind of America that we want while looking squarely at America as it is, to acknowledge the sins of our past and challenges of the present without becoming trapped in cynicism or despair.”
President Obama, The Audacity of Hope
A treatment that I have found to be inspirational, based off its display of tolerance in being able to marry more than one perspective on a topic, even a topic as complex as race; all in the hopes that this brings us closer to achieving a better tomorrow.
Note how our views whatever they might be can be different and subjective, but what is ‘better’, well that is definitely objective.
And emboldened by this hope. I hope even further into the future that myself and my generation follow in the same levels of measure, and balance and wisdom that exemplary characters as President Obama have modelled, and even as we begin to become quite literally the leaders of tomorrow.