Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.
Barack Obama

Do you know what kind of feelings stir in my heart when I see President Obama?

Nothing but Love.

America is my home, my country, and a source of pride. America the beautiful is truly that, beautiful. If you have had the privilege to cross from sea to shining sea, then you are aware of the vast beauty within in our borders. You have the beaches of Hawaii, California and Florida that contrast the mountains of Alaska, Colorado and North Carolina. Wonders like the Grand Canyon, Niagara falls and the Great Lakes inspire awe and wonder.

What makes these 50 interconnected states truly beautiful, however, are the people. American strength has always been derived from those of us who persist within these borders. Those of us who have fought for years to make something of ourselves, those whose ancestors fought for centuries to build this country with their literal bare hands, those who crossed a large sea, whether willingly or by force, to a land unknown. We, the people have persistently wanted to form a more perfect Union.

This job of creating a better America is a continuous one. America did not form a perfect Union on July 4, 1776 but the founders made a better nation than the one they had before. And that, my friends, is our job today. To continue their work, to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and ensure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

Posterity, a word not often used in our modern world. A word that harkens back to the days of yore yet looks forward to the future at the same time. This archaic word means: all future generations. That part is what hits home the most for me. My job as an American is to ensure, justice, peace, defense, and liberty for my children and their children.

When I look at President Obama, I see my sons. I see the product of love that is Black AND White. Love that crossed cultural, racial, and societal boundaries. I see a man who gave hope to both races and even more than that gives inspiration to us all. I am so grateful that my sons were both born during a time where the president looked exactly like them. As a young boy, I longed for the day when I would see a Black president. The Old Heads said it would never happen, the Young Bucks thought we could achieve it but it would be in the far off future. We would reach the pinnacle of American leadership in a time long after those reading my words will have departed the earth. Many of us never envisioned something like that happening in our lifetime, but it did and it was one of the single greatest things to happen to America.

At the tender ages of 5 and 3, my sons both know who the President is and what he means to the country. I love that he looks just like them. I love that they will never have to wonder if a Black man could be president. I love that they know that a bi-racial child can have a bright future in a country that is starting to look more like them everyday. I love that in the midst of police shootings, racial tension, systemic prejudice, and mass incarceration of Blacks that they can look at the highest office in the land and remember that 44 was just like them. President Obama is more than just a political figure. He is a symbol of progress, perseverance and patriotism.

Patriotism: A word cloaked in unnecessary political rhetoric. Patriotism is simply love for your country and contrary to media portrayal, President Obama has reinvigorated a love for this country amongst many Blacks. For decades, Black Americans have had to live with an internal tension between America being great and America needing to be better. We have had to live in a world that has progressed immensely from the days of slavery, disenfranchisement, Jim Crow, segregation and separate but equal but is not fully operating in the days of liberty and justice for all. A country that does not fully have domestic tranquility nor promotes general welfare. We believe against all odds that America can be what the founders created it to be. We have believed it for 240 years. We believed it even when we understood that Independence Day was only for whites. Frederick Douglas believed it when he escaped to freedom yet could not proudly celebrate July 4th. He was free, yet we were all not free. He understood that America’s potential to be the greatest nation on Earth laid in the fact that its founding doctrine expressed that all men were created equal, even though it was not realized at that time. He, like others throughout history, knew that our Constitution desired that all men actualized their God given rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, even though it was not reality. Looking back to the heroes of our past like Harriet Tubman, Medgar Evers, Thurgood Marshall, and Rosa Parks, we see Americans who were Patriots. They loved their country. They loved it so much, that they were willing to fight to make it better. They were willing to stick it out and form a more perfect union. They didn’t up and leave the land. They were willing to see it through to the end. They knew that they had to do it for their posterity.

This is what President Obama has done for me. He has shown me that the fight is worth having, that the battle is worth engaging in, that in order to truly love my country, I have to be willing to do what it takes to make it the best that it could possibly be.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and this picture is that for me. Nothing quite conveys what President Obama means than this picture.

 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

A president walking, chatting, laughing with Young Black Men.

You have young men in khakis, in Jordan’s, in full suits and they are all comfortable and at home with their President. In this moment they don’t care about politics or the Middle East or who’s a Republican or Democrat. They love that they have the ear of a President who simply cares. A President who created the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative. An initiative that I am thoroughly proud to be a part of here in Austin. Even if he accomplished nothing else in eight years, the fact that he created a program that is in over 50 communities and is built to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential, is good enough for me.

But thankfully, he did more than that. My recent mission has been to show the world a different type of leadership: Relational leadership. This is something that we can all get involved in and can all use to change the world.

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The antithesis to Relational Leadership is the very common Authoritarian Leadership and we are all very familiar with this method. Authoritarian leadership involves leading from perceived strength and power. It often results in rulers leading with an iron fist. Relationship is not valued but obedience is. As long as the job is getting done, the people at the top are happy. There are many types of leadership, and some are more effective than others for many different reasons, but I believe that building relationships with those around you is the key to the most successful America that we could possibly have.

In just a few days we are going to inaugurate a new president who is all about authoritarian leadership and that will work for some and not for others. What makes me sad, however, is not so much what we are gaining but what we are losing. We are losing a relational leader. Someone who the people could see themselves kicking it with. Someone who seems completely relatable and real to them. A President who laces up his kicks and gets on the basketball court, just like me. A President who makes silly dad jokes and loves his children dearly. A President who honors his wife and shows her constant affection. A President who isn’t afraid to show his deep friendship with his VP. A President who made me proud when they brought down bin Laden. A President who almost brought this grown man to tears when he sang Amazing Grace at the memorial for the victims of the Emmanuel AME shooting.

Ultimately, history will be the judge. Are presidents remembered more for their successes or their failures? I believe in this case it will be for the former and not the later. Sure there might be many failures on your list, the Affordable Care Act, Nuclear weapons and Iran, our involvement in Syria etc…… but the successes, the hope, the inspiration, the legacy will endure. Our job as Americans is to build on what we just had for eight years. If we don’t like Obamacare, then we need to make it better. We need to improve it and make it work. We have to do what we have done for 240 years now; take imperfect situations and make them better.

But……. we have to do it together.

For me the inspiration lies in our 44th President. Someone who carried the office with dignity and class, who didn’t have any major scandals, who was civil and dignified. He is a hero to me and many others and we will miss him dearly.

Thank you President Obama for eight years of Hope and Perseverance. We will continue your work.

 

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