“Because you did change the world. You did. And that’s why I leave this stage tonight even more optimistic than when we started. Because I know our work has helped so many Americans; it has inspired so many Americans.” With these words, President Obama reminded the American people that they are the ones who wield the power to change this country. Obama’s final tribute to the American public’s role in helping facilitate change highlights a key aspect of his legacy: inspiring both young and old to participate in the American democratic process and fight for justice and equality in our society.
Obama first inspired America through his own personal story, as described in his memoir Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. In it, the President describes his own upbringing and attempt to reconcile two parts of his identity, all the while dealing with everyday life as a community organizer. The depictions of his conflicts and inner battles allows for one to see the evolution of how the President became so impressively thoughtful in his words and actions. His emergence from his initial insecurity to later working as a community organizer in the South Side of Chicago demonstrated the physical manifestation of his dreams towards a more just society. Overcoming the many obstacles along the way, Obama never let these issues impede his own personal goals and in belief in a greater future for all Americans. But most importantly, Obama personified the change he wanted to see in America.
Yet Obama has not allowed his immense success to boost his hubris. In his farewell speech, the President highlighted the importance of his wife’s support. With these comments, the President demonstrated that even while holding the most powerful office in the United States for eight years, he has not forgotten the support others gave him through the most difficult times in his Presidency. Obama’s admirable humility reverberates strongly with the average American, and might be one of the reasons why he is the most admired man in the United States.
Obama’s remarkable embodiment of democratic virtues forced his political opponents to revert to disdainful methods of slander that stood completely opposite to Obama’s personal ethics. But while Obama has stood firm, yet calm in the face of his critics, President-elect Trump is in many ways the ying to Obama’s yang: a brash, hotheaded individual who will assume the presidency in one week. If the President-elect’s actions over the past election cycle indicate anything, murky times and uncertainty could be exploited to reach towards American’s fears instead of their good natures. Instead of viewing the American people as the harbingers of hope, President Trump may claim to be the solution to America’s problems. But to hold one individual to fix every problem in the United States is counterintuitive to President Obama’s rhetoric. We, the American public, must organize and fight towards a more equitable society. Let us not fall into believing that one individual can fix our issues; each and every American has the power to incur change.