After watching President Obama’s farewell address last night, I found myself thinking back on his presidency, and where I was in my life when he ran the first time in 2008.
Before President Obama was elected eight years ago, I largely felt invisible, limited, and alone. I was reaching the end of my college career at Georgetown, and had met many amazing people along the way, but I didn’t think anyone who looked like me could actually make a difference in the lives of others.
Being bi-racial in a world where most Caucasian folks see you as only black, and most African-Americans see you as white doesn’t help; I’m sure quite a few out there remember the whole “is Obama ‘black enough?’” stuff that went on. He’s faced that long before his run and it’s something that’s way more pervasive than it should be. I know that because I’ve experienced it for most of my life, and there were times when I felt like less of a person because I never fully fit in to either racial identity that society told me I should have.
Having a hybrid racial identity is messy to a lot of folks’ world views, and while I understand why, it doesn’t make explaining it, or living it, any easier.
But when he was elected, Barack Obama not only broke a ceiling that many thought wouldn’t be broken for several more decades; he also made me feel a lot more comfortable in my own skin. I no longer felt like I had to look different, or be someone different, in order to make a difference.
He’s accomplished many things, and I feel blessed to say that he was our president during the stage in my life where I became a full adult. More than anything else, though, he made it okay for me to be me, and I’ll always be grateful for that.
It’s also why I’m running for the Virginia House of Delegates this year. I now know that someone who looks like me and has my background can earn the trust and support of folks from all walks of life; I now know that if I work hard enough, fight hard enough, and organize hard enough to get my message of progress to those I wish to serve, that I can make a positive impact on their lives.
There were times — several of them, in fact — where I disagreed with his policies, but President Obama’s background, accomplishments, and legacy are part of who I am, and I owe it to him and everyone else to take hold of that, and run with it as far as my mind, body and heart can take me.
Thanks for reading.