Opinon: An ode to the Obamas

By Rachel Rippetoe | January 20, 2017 10:28am


Before I get into this, let’s set the mood for a second. Get comfortable. Curl yourself into a nice little ball, make sure you’re alone. We’re trying to maximize an optimal space for crying, here.

Now, pull away from this article for a second. Go to your Spotify account, or YouTube or Apple Music, wherever you get your music from. Go there and look up “All These Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers. Play it while you read.

Oh, yeah. This is gonna hurt.

The year is 2008 and the world has just been rocked by a massive recession. People are losing their jobs and their homes. The housing market crashed and America is reeling after the downfall of hubris, after they’ve been betrayed by their banks and their mortgages.

I was 12 years old at the time. My dad’s machine shop was about to close. I had a big poster hanging on the wall of my bedroom that year. It was a stylized stencil portrait in solid red, beige and blue. On the bottom in big capital letters it read, “HOPE”.

2008 was an election year.

He spoke in a way that nobody had in a long time. Confident, but not arrogant. Angry, but hopeful. What a novel idea it was to run on this idea of “hope”, to remind Americans not of everything we lost, but of everything we still had.

They questioned whether he was born here because of his last name, because of the color of his skin. They groveled for a birth certificate. But he’d laugh about it one day. He’d laugh at so many things.

On Nov. 4, 2008, I skipped school. I watched as my mom and my cousin cast their ballots. It felt like a historic day and it was.

That night, my parents and my neighbors hugged and cried. I remember watching their reactions through the glass door of our sunroom. Their voices were muted but I could see them jumping up and down.

365 electoral votes. I took it for granted.

Two months ago, I wanted to go back to that night so badly. I wanted to steep in that moment, revel in it. I wanted to sit on the blue chair that always belonged to my grandfather and watch the TV tell us that Barack Obama would be our 44th president. I wanted to watch the fireworks show. I wanted that feeling back. I wanted it so badly.

But it’s not what I got on Nov. 8, 2016, and on Friday, a different man is being inaugurated into the highest office.

I’m not here to talk about him, though.

I made a resolution for 2017 to stop saying “I’m sorry” so much, and to start saying “thank you” instead.

So for the very last time: Thanks, Obama.

Thank you for bringing our troops home, for protecting gay and lesbian men and women who serve from discrimination, for allowing transgender men and women to serve in the military.

Thank you for providing 20 million people across this country with viable health care. That man who stood up to Paul Ryan and told him that if it wasn’t for the Affordable Care Act, he would not be alive right now was not the only one.

Obamacare wasn’t perfect, but you produced something that saved lives. It was the change you promised, but what people forget is that change isn’t always comfortable. It takes time. It takes mistakes and imperfections, but good intentions.

Thank you for always having good intentions. Thank you for your tears after Sandy Hook and Charleston and Orlando. I wish they could have done more. But thank you for them anyway.

Thank you for being a feminist. Your reverence for your beautiful and unstoppable wife set a precedent that the White House needed.

Michelle, Malia and Sasha, thank you for giving America the genuine and loving first family it needed. The immeasurable pressure that you must have felt every day is unfathomable, but thank you for handling it with grace always.

When they went low, you went high. Thank you.

If any of you actually followed my instructions and put on that very fitting anthem by The Killers, you might be approaching the crescendo of “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier.”

Feel free to take a moment to yell it at the top of your lungs and cry a little.

You good? I have a few more thank you’s. No, I have a hundred more thank you’s, but for the sake of time, I’ll only list a few more.

Thank you for marriage equality. Thank you for your summer playlists. Thank you for giving 1,715 incarcerated men and women a second chance.

Thank you for your sense of humour. Your ability to laugh in the face of hatred is perhaps my favorite thing about you.

Thank you for breaking boundaries as the first black president, for bringing more talented black artists, musicians, scientists into the White House than ever before.

American children born in 2008 have only known life under a black president. I think that’s beautiful. You did that. Thank you.

Thank you for making efforts to protect our life on this Earth with your Clean Power Plan. Thank you for finally saying “no” to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Thank you for saving the auto industry.

Thank you for loving Joe Biden as much as we do. Thank you for running a West Wing that Aaron Sorkin would approve of, dreamt of, even.

Thank you for continuing to do your job, even when a gridlocked Congress wouldn’t let you.

Finally, thank you leaving us with words as hopeful and as graceful as the ones you gave us in 2008.

I think Brandon Flowers says it best.

“While everyone's lost, the battle is won. With all these things that I’ve (you've) done.”

“If you can hold on. Hold on.”