Cabe column: Obama made me feel proud to be an American
With Donald Trump’s inauguration set for Friday morning, I’ve been grappling with what kind of column I wanted to write for today.
A part of me is shaken by Trump’s first press conference, and I think it’s an important time to discuss the difference between “fake news” and real news that just happens to bother the president-elect.
But over the next four years, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunity to lead a conversation about the role of journalism in democracy and the importance of a free press (the Bill of Rights that Trump supporters love so much kicks off with explicit protections for journalists, lest we forget).
So instead, I wanted to take this space to talk about President Obama.
In 2008, I was 17 years old — too young to vote. But this was the first presidential election I ever paid much attention to. I remember staying up late in my bedroom on election night, watching my television while I anxiously clung my pillow to my chest.
When President Obama gave his victory speech, I cried because I was looking at the country’s first black president, and I believed that meant something. I cried because he campaigned on hope and change, two ideas a 17-year-old holds near and dear. I was filled to the brim with hope that night.
Over the next eight years, Obama made decisions I agreed with, and he made decisions I didn’t agree with. There were issues I didn’t think he pushed enough, although during his second term I knew there was only so much he could do against a Congress that worked tirelessly to roadblock anything and everything he put forward.
He has one of the worst track records in U.S. presidential history with transparency, and he went after more whistleblowers than any other president. He deported more undocumented immigrants than any other president in U.S. history, too (which I do not personally see as a positive thing). He authorized the use of drones that killed innocents. He hasn’t made equity for minorities enough of a priority. The Affordable Care Act is not good enough. The list of his failures in my eyes goes on and on.
But I’ve never been ashamed of my president. I’ve never felt embarrassed by the leader my fellow citizens elected (I helped elect him in 2012). Through all the ups and downs, President Obama has remained a shining example of grace, humility, compassion and goodness. He never ruled with doom and gloom, never used fear to hold onto his power. He was a distinctly positive president and one whose voice I will miss very much.
And, to be clear, I benefited personally from his presidency. Under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, I no longer had to make special visits to a public women’s health clinic to get birth control. Now, my insurance covers it. I also got to watch my friends get health insurance for the first time in their lives because they could finally afford to. I was able to watch my friend’s mother with ALS receive the care and procedures she needed to stay alive when, before, her insurance company called her disease a pre-existing condition and left it up to her to pay all medical expenses.
Obama’s acknowledgment of climate change and the steps he and his administration took to slow it were not enough, but compared with Donald Trump, Obama’s work on this issue makes me proud and hopeful for more change in the future. Without it, we won’t have a future at all.
President Obama was tasked with appointing two Supreme Court justices (it should have been three, but Republicans prevented him from carrying out his constitutional duty when they refused to confirm anyone he would appoint). Both of them are women, one of whom is Latina. I believe having government bodies that look like the American population is a good first step to having fairness in this country, and I’m more grateful now than ever to have women on the Supreme Court as Trump promises to strip us of our reproductive rights.
And lastly, watching Obama proudly call himself a feminist has meant the world to me. Watching Michelle and him raise his daughters into strong, smart, kind young women has been a pleasure, and hearing him speak openly and often about the importance of gender equality has been so important.
President Obama has been a true role model for me, and I’ll never forget how proud he made me feel to be an American. He will be remembered as one of the greats, someday. For now, simply, he will be missed.
Jessica Cabe’s column appears on the third Thursday of the month.
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