It’s hard to not view the presidency of Barack Obama through the lens of parenting.
For many Americans, President Obama has been like a father. Offering a positive example, as he did in his farewell address in Chicago last night, encouraging us to better ourselves and our world, staying cool and calm when the weight of the world has been on his shoulders. For others, he was what inspired us to have children ourselves. Nine months after the celebration and joy of Grant Park in 2008, there was talk of the “Obama babies” who were being born as symbols of the new hope for the nation: diverse couples, immigrant stories, and embracing America’s future majority-minority demographics.
My own two children have never known a time when there was not a black president. While not themselves Obama babies, they certainly were born into and are products of the optimism of the Obama years. On Election Night in 2008, the economy was in turmoil and possibly headed for another Great Depression. The housing market collapsed. The stock market fell. The jobs market left millions out of work. And President Obama and Congress turned it all around to produce the longest period of consecutive job growth in U.S. history.
Millions didn’t have health care and now they do. You could be kicked out of the armed services for being gay then and now you can’t. LGBT Americans can now marry thanks to the Obama years. The crime rate hit its lowest level ever during the administration. We’ve largely not been at war. We have not suffered any 9/11-like acts of mass terrorism. There have been no major American government scandals. We’ve seen peaceful relations restored to old enemies like Iran and Cuba. We’re more energy independent and have seen the growth of renewable energy. We’ve expanded our national parks. We’ve expanded the role of science. We’ve decided to go to Mars.
It’s been eight years of steady progress forward not only for the United States but for civilization, generally. Not everyone has seen prosperity and peace, for sure. But global violence and poverty is down.
And, of course, all this is under threat. Let’s not sugarcoat that. Perhaps the greatest success of the Obama years are that they existed at all. They’ve been unprecedented moments in American history where we’ve come closer than ever before to living the full set of ideals we have as a people.
Through it all, President Obama has been a true leader. A statesman. A humble, educated man who always keeps a positive vision no matter the mud thrown at him or the lowest instincts of the very people he’s trying to bring tooth-and-nail into the 21st century. Finally, he bought an intelligent, composed, role-model family to live in the White House.
More than anything, I want my kids to remember what their childhood was like under these conditions. I have no clue what the next administration may bring, but I do know that I’m proud to have had a president they could look to as an example of the highest, best version of humanity. If my kids turn out half as smart, half as dedicated to others, half as patient, half as enlightened as the President Obama, I will consider myself successful as a parent.
Nobody else is going to be Barack Obama. Let’s remember these good times in our minds and maybe one day we can replicate them again.
A version of this first appeared on Newfangled Dad.