How many times has he offered us hope? How many times has he showed us he cared. How many times as he encouraged us when we needed encouraged. The weight of his office has made him gray, but strengthened his resolve and his belief in America, and he shared that with us last night.
How many times have we seen him wipe a tear from his eyes when speaking emotionally? This act, the tear trickling down a man’s face, is itself a sign of hope. You don’t see this act from Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan or from Donald Trump, for those are men without empathy and without courage. It takes a lot of courage to find hope when you look around and see a nation divided and a world in turmoil, those men don’t have that kind of courage. You look in their eyes and you see a darkness, reminiscent of part of all that is evil in men.
You look in the eyes of a man like President Obama and you see light, the light of hope. The light of “yes we can,” not, no we won’t. A light that seeks to accept differences rather than to divide. A light that shines in the direction of others, rather than upon one’s self. A light that guides the hand to pat others on the back instead of ourselves. A light that will be missed more than any of us might has realized in days’ past.
Last night President Obama gave his farewell address to the nation, and even after all negative attacks upon his character, upon the ideas he proposed to help America, and even upon his wife and children, he still stood among us and offered hope. The President believes in the goodness of man and in the greatness of the American democracy.
“Democracy can buckle when it gives in to fear,” Obama said. “So, just as we as citizens must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are.”
He said we must keep fighting for the best of our democracy, in mankind, public service and our institutions. “Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted. All of us, regardless of party, should be throwing ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions,” he said. “When trusts in our institutions is low we should reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics and insist on the principles of transparency and ethics in public service.”
The President spoke about the divide in our country and our personal responsibility for it. “We weaken,” he said, “when we see some of us as more American than others. When we write off the system as evidently corrupt, and when we sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.”
“It falls to each of us to be those anxious jealous guardians of democracy,” Obama said.
He thanked those who worked by his side over the past eight years: his wife and children, his vice president and friend Joe Biden, his staff and his supporters. He told them their work has helped and inspired so many Americans.
“I know our work has inspired so many Americans, especially so many young people out there,” young people who know believe they can make a difference when you “hitch your wagon to something bigger than yourselves.”
He said it has been the honor of his life to serve us, and that he wouldn’t stop. “I will be right there with you as a citizen for all of my remaining days, but for now, whether you are young or whether you are young at heart, I do have one final ask as your president. The same thing I asked of you when you took a chance on me eight years ago, I’m asking you to believe, not in my ability to bring about change, but in yours.”
The first person of color to be elected to the highest office of the land, Obama bore a heavy burden. He was expected to stand up for others like himself, who have suffered racism and belittlement, who couldn’t drink from the same fountain as a white man, who had to fight, often with their own lives, just to gain the sight of equal footing. This was expected of him by his people, but what he showed all of us instead, is that we were all his people – black and white, male and female, Christian or Muslim, he was a president for everyone who accepted him. I don’t think any of, us who put our faith in him in the beginning, have walked away disappointed in the end. Yet seeing him leave the office makes me recall something I’ve heard all my life – We don’t appreciate the importance of water until the well has run dry.