I was born in 1993, so I’ve been alive for 3 different presidential administrations: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. And while I wasn’t exactly politically aware during Bill Clinton’s presidency, I can say with absolute certainty that Barack Obama is the best president this country has had in my lifetime.
I’m not saying he’s perfect. He’s far from perfect. For starters, I have serious issues with his foreign policy and use of drone strikes. But he is a good man, a dedicated public servant, a firm believer in social justice and progressive values, and one of the greatest intellectual minds of the 21st century. And a great president.
When Barack Obama first took office in 2009, I was 15 and in 10th grade. I had already decided I was a Democrat, but I think I’ve been a Democrat since 2000 when I told my grandfather I wanted Al Gore to be president because he wanted fewer guns. Still, the years between 2009 and 2017 would be a time of learning, questioning, and developing for me, both politically and personally. I would find my beliefs challenged and figure out some surprising truths about myself and the country I live in. And in the background of all of this growth and change was Barack Obama. I consider myself extremely lucky to have grown from teen to adult during the Obama years. It’s hard for me to put into words exactly what Barack Obama and his presidency have meant to me, but I’ll give it a try.
The leader of my country believes that my sexual orientation is not a valid reason to discriminate against me. He stands up for me against people who want to treat me like a second-class citizen. This has never happened before, and it certainly won’t happen over the next four years. Barack Obama oversaw the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states. He signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, issued an executive order protecting queer and trans workers from discrimination, and has voiced his support for banning gay conversion therapy. There’s still a lot of work to be done in LGBTQ+ rights, but Barack Obama has made this country a safer, better, and brighter place for me as a queer woman.
The leader of my country proudly identifies as a feminist. He believes in women. He supports women. He signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. He appointed two women to the Supreme Court. Half of all the female Supreme Court justices this country has had were appointed by Barack Obama. He has worked hard to support and protect survivors of sexual violence and domestic abuse. He has raised two strong, empowered, wildly successful young women, and has nothing for the utmost respect and admiration for his wife, a successful, accomplished, powerful female role model. And he understands that women do not have to be his wife or his daughters to be deserving of his respect.
The leader of my country is leading the fight for racial justice. He’s the first black president, which is an undeniably huge deal, but it’s not an indication of a post-racial society, and he knows that. And while I certainly recognize my privilege as a white person who has seen someone with my skin color occupy the Oval Office since the 18th century, I can’t pretend that having an unapologetically black man in the highest office in the country hasn’t had a powerful impact on me.
The leader of my country recognizes that healthcare is a right, not a privilege. He fought tirelessly for healthcare reform against a Congress that was determined to block him at all costs. The Affordable Care Act is definitely flawed, but it’s progress, and it’s more progress than any other president has been able to make.
The leader of my country understands the need for a level playing field, and recognizes that in order to have a level playing field, the people who have more need to give more. He inherited an economy in crisis and turned it around. And while his economic record is certainly not perfect, he has worked to shrink the gap between rich and poor, with the wages of the bottom 10% of households currently growing at a faster rate than those of the top 10%.
The leader of my country is working to end mass incarceration and has commuted more sentences than the last nine presidents combined. He’s the first sitting president ever to visit a federal prison and has pushed for prison reform. Under his administration, the Justice Department announced that it would end its use of private prisons, which is great, because private prisons might just be the worst idea that anyone has ever had in the history of the world.
The leader of my country knows that science is not a liberal conspiracy. He knows that climate change is real, and he recognizes the urgency in fighting it. He gets that evolution is science and creationism is religion, and only one of them deserves to be taught in public schools.
The leader of my country has the most adorable friendship of all time with his second-in-command, and a relationship with his wife that can make even the most cynical among us believe in love.
The leader of my country has spent the past eight years conducting himself with nothing but wisdom, integrity, and grace. As Michelle likes to say, when they go low, Obama goes high. He handled racist backlash, outrageous Republican obstruction, and accusations of being a Muslim and a terrorist and being born outside of the United States, and he handled them with poise and humor.
The leader of my country is not a perfect president, but he is a great man. What else is there to say but…