By Tom Demerly for tomdemerly.com
Friday, January 20, 2017 is the final day President Barack Hussein Obama II will serve as President of the United States. He was President for 2,931 days.
Those were among the most significant days in my life.
The day President Obama was sworn in I owned a business grossing well over $1M. I earned an upper-middle class living. I owned a house in the city where I was born. I actively participated in local government, paid for a new car in cash and was on track with retirement savings for a person my age.
A year later I lost everything.
The full weight of the banking collapse, the global recession and the automotive meltdown settled on Dearborn, Michigan. The stock market plummeted to 6,000. People lost houses, businesses and livelihoods. I lost all those things and more. I had a stroke and lost part of my vision and needed heart surgery. I declared bankruptcy, packed a suitcase and moved to Tucson, Arizona in a modern day “Grapes of Wrath” migration to start a new life.
Now, 2,500 days later (give or take) I’m back. Detroit and Dearborn are back. I own part of a business again and write for four media outlets published around the world. Abandoned buildings and empty businesses on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn are gone. New ones are being built. Ford Motor Company is rebuilding its engineering center. Small businesses are going back into Dearborn. The stock market is flirting with a new record at 20,000.
Seven years later I have hope again.
It would be wrong to attribute America’s entire comeback to President Obama, and it would be equally inaccurate to blame all of America’s many remaining problems on him.
It is entirely accurate to acknowledge his steadfast adherence to his ideals. It is also accurate to credit him with a measure of unity and compassion that was much needed in America when he was elected.
When President Obama first took office our country was fractured and afraid. And while much of that feeling remains and even expanded during this last, divisive election year, President Obama presided over our national crisis with quiet strength, dignity and wisdom.
He inspired us to rise up, come out, speak up and get to work. If you believed in him, he inspired you to support his agenda. If you disagreed with him he inspired you to oppose his agenda with action and resolve. No matter your political orientation President Obama inspired us to action. He inspired us to hope we could be a part of the system, then he set an example that everyone can be a part of that system.
A consistent theme of President Obama’s time in office has been “Hope”. When he was elected he said;
“Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? I’m not talking about blind optimism here — the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker’s son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope!”
But hope is a hollow doctrine without action, and President Obama inspired us through his own action. In every policy that he believed in, in every doctrine that he supported, he was tireless, resourceful and relentless. I did not agree with all of his initiatives, but I remain inspired by his endurance, tenacity and grace in driving them.
Understand that President Obama stood for two things: his political agenda- that you may or may not have agreed with- and most importantly, the strength of hope. Not hope only for our own agendas and politics, but hope for every single American, regardless of politics, race, religion, orientation or aspiration.
That hope has carried us, sometimes in the absence of anything else.