I think of myself as a kind of political schizophrenic, living under a system driven by "crapitalism," which I find hugely problematic and being a citizen in an empire building country that sees itself as exceptional, except when it comes to taking care of its own. Personally, the last eight years have been good for me in ways I just had not imagined. After the unexpected cut in funding for my job as director of the Women's Leadership Institute at Mills College (2009) and the death of my cherished one and husband David Landes (2008), I was so uncertain of how my future would unfold. But one day, I answered a cold call solicitation, something I am not prone to do, and had my brother-in-law vet it. My brother-in-law is a contractor and when I provided the details, he said go for it. The call was related to Obama's stimulus packet and resulted in me having 23 new windows, new heating system, ducts and tank less water heater installed in my then 105-year-old home for around $16,000.00. I used a 3.2% line of equity to pay it off.
I watched our first known Black president navigate treacherous terrain and strategically placed minefields from day one of his administration. There were times he demonstrated tremendous leadership and others where I was outraged by his decisions, especially those that resulted in the bombing of other people's children. Children adore him and feel that special energy within his spirit that calls them into his arms, has them rolling on the floor and playing out their super hero fantasies with him. I wonder if and how he reconciled that dichotomy.
The doors of the White House were held wide open to the most diverse cross-section and intersection of people ever through staffing, a range of initiatives and meetings with constituents the likes of whom had never before entered. From tours to the First Lady's garden and a host of rites of passage, it really became the People's House. Despite falling short on Standing Rock, he brought the Native American community into some of the policy and cultural initiatives. During his leadership, I saw a real elevation in the diversity of the cultural climate of the country and serious efforts placed behind first generation students (many of whom were children of and immigrants themselves). I have the good fortune of continuing my work as a consultant to Mills, where I work with and mentor first generation students. One of my mentees who at 23 was the youngest person ever to win a MacArthur Award and the other is a science major from Yemen, positioning herself to conduct ground-breaking research related to HIV AIDS.
Close to half a million students have had their loans forgiven. I also supported my daughter in earning a bachelor's and masters degrees and entering a program to secure a doctorate in educational leadership. Seeing so many young people navigate the global complexities of life in the 21st century has been remarkable.
He was the consummate family man and I got to witness a father, mother and grandmother raise two girls into solid young women. It also became unequivocally clear that President Obama was indeed a centrist in charge of an empire. He also spoke eloquently and respectfully to his country while demonstrating that he was president of more than Black America. While he stumbled through the quagmire of race, he gained new insights into how it plays out in even the most accomplished of Black people, most especially himself and his family. I can only imagine that there were almost daily white knuckled moments, where there were so many things he wanted to say but didn't/couldn't.
While I drove 850 miles of Cuba, travelled to England and South Africa twice during his tenure and read and listened up extensively beyond the borders of social media, I got to see and hear how he remains highly regarded by billions of everyday people and those in leadership around the world. My 94-year-old mother, who still insists on washing the colored clothes first, as a symbolic gesture to years of segregation, received a letter from him on her 90th birthday congratulating her on ten decades of life. She and my father were part of the second wave of migration up out of the deep South to Washington, DC (back in the day sometimes then referred to as Up South) to experience the "Warmth of Other Suns." Having a Black president meant more to her and her generation than so many can imagine.
The legacy he's leaving today will be quite different from the one he carries forward a decade from now (if we get to see a decade from now). Despite the hurdles of hate and boulders of obstruction, with them somehow tenderness survived. I wish President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Malia, Sasha and Ms. Robinson the time they deserve to rest, reflect and restore their souls for moving their lives forward. I'm eager to see how the hopeful tones of both President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama's farewell addresses and work with the Obama Foundation translate during these times, where the moral arc of justice is bending deep into the swamp and dredging up the dark matter of life.
Go well in the country of your heart, mind and soul.
Copyright © Daphne Muse, 2017
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