November 4, 2008
I was 11 years old when Barack Obama was elected President. I remember arriving home from school on that Tuesday afternoon and enthusiastically tuning in to Sky News’ coverage of the election. I saw an old white man, who seemed no different to the last 43 American Presidents, contesting a candidate like none I’d seen before: a youthful black man with a black wife and black kids who talked about progress and fairness in new and exciting ways. His running mate reminded me of a cool, friendly uncle; McCain’s was more like a Roald Dahl villain. In hindsight, John McCain was a perfectly decent Republican party candidate: were he being inaugurated tomorrow, I’d be in fairly good spirits. But, as the principle obstacle to the dream-come-true victory of Barack Obama, McCain seemed to this 11-year old as the ultimate villain. I obtained an Obama/Biden ’08 badge, which I wore proudly all that day. I don’t remember how I heard the news that he’d won. Maybe my parents woke me up in the middle of the night, or maybe I turned on the radio first thing Wednesday morning. Either way, Wednesday was a magical day. That evening, I attended a celebratory dinner party with a group of my friends’ parents. It seemed that America and Ireland were one; that an Obama presidency was revolutionary not just for the US, but for the world.
March 25, 2008
I’ve only visited the United States once in my life: in March 2008, in the final months of the George W Bush presidency. At that point, I had basic awareness of the impending election: it had been explained to me that the Democratic nominee would either be a woman or a black man: 2008 was going to be a very special year.
January 20, 2009
Another Tuesday afternoon. A friend came over and we all watched the Inauguration ceremony. I was ecstatic; months of excitement about Obama were paying off with this: an official swearing-in ceremony. From today, he would be the most powerful man in the western world. I held my hand to my heart during the national anthem; in my innocent heart, this figure of social advancement and freedom was inspiring a patriotism for a nation that I’ve only spent 8 days in.
January 19, 2016
It’s Obama’s final day in office. I haven’t set foot in America during his term, but he has now been president for 42% of my life. Throughout my adolescence, the formative years of my character as my political leanings and principles were informed and cemented, I have had this figure of intellect and dignity in the highest American office to look to and be inspired by. It’s sad to say, but I do believe Obama will be the best President of my lifetime (unless the next 4 years inspires a massive socialist backlash), and he wasn’t even that great. The Obama administration have done terrible things overseas, invaded their citizens’ privacy and failed to keep promises to the electorate. But all the many, many good things Obama did are cumulatively more significant than the work of most of his predecessors. Even when I thought he was wrong, I knew he was coming from a place of enormous intelligence and was making an educated decision. I will not feel this way about the incoming President, and I probably wouldn’t have felt this way about a President Hillary Clinton either. Obama exudes honesty and sincerity. He projects kindness and humanity when he speaks in public, strength and optimism when he addresses the White House press corps. He may not be Josiah Bartlet, but he’s a damn good alternative.
I’ve spent most of these 8 years taking him for granted. I can’t begin to imagine how much I’ll miss him when 45 has begun his work dismantling the Obama legacy. It remains a dream of mine to meet President Obama someday. He’s my fucking dude.