Thank you, President Obama.

On the final night of the Obama administration, there seems to be a lack of oxygen in the air- I certainly know I’m holding my breath. And I probably won’t let it go for another four years. Between my classes today, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time looking through the Obama family photo albums circulating the internet, reading about all the progress we’ve made that is now in jeopardy, and delving into the politics of my childhood.

Barack Obama was elected to office as I was barely entering my teenage years. There was no better way to get me interested in politics than by the election of a black man to the most important office in the world. History was being made- I could even envision the election of a woman to Office within years. At the time, it seemed as though our nation was taking a huge leap, finally addressing its racist history and healing this division. Little did I know that this wasn’t the case- rather, the election of President Obama had much the opposite effect, rallying white supremacists and the like together in search of a take back campaign. Not only was Obama’s legitimacy questioned for the beginning, but the racist undertones of the nation were set aflame, culminating eight years later in the election of Donald J Trump to the Presidency.

Still, I am so lucky to have had eight of my formative years under President Obama, where I saw the rights and liberties of diverse populations- whether by race, class, or orientation- be legitimized by the U.S. Government, where I was able to engage with politics and learn that we are capable and responsible for making change as we hope to see it.

On June 26 in 2013 and 2015, I had the fortune to celebrate the repeal of DOMA and the legalization of gay marriage on the steps of the Supreme Court.  I spent that summer of 2015 advocating for human rights and religious equality across the nation and the world. In the summer of 2016, I worked for the US Embassy London, learning about economic, energy, and technology policy and how foreign governments work with the United States closely to engage with theses policies. At Mudd in the fall, I took a class on the economics of family and education, learning about programs and institutions that currently exist or were greatly enhanced in the past eight years. Through it all, I learned how great an impact the Obama Administration has made for the benefit of our nation.

I’m 20 now, and will become a legal adult in July under the Trump administration. I don’t know what lies ahead- hell, I can barely even wrap my head around what will happen tomorrow morning after inauguration- but, I do know that my generation was inspired by one of the greatest orators and leaders of our time. I am so thankful to you, President Obama, for leading our great nation for the past eight years, for encouraging all of us to fight for what’s important, and above all else, for believing in our country and its people, even when prospects seem low. Your belief inspires me and I cannot wait to work alongside you and First Lady Michelle Obama in making sure that what we’ve accomplished in the last eight years will flourish and leave a lasting legacy for our nation.

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