Monday, November 10, 2008
The day after Barack Obama was elected President of the United States of America, my husband’s boss called him into his office.
“I know it’s been a few months since you’ve been working with us,” his boss said, “but am I pronouncing your name correctly?”
This is one of the many reasons we are elated – no, jubilant… no, ecstatic… actually, no word exists that describes how happy we are right now – about Barack Obama. He is the literal “other” that we’ve always been classified as, and as such, he makes people take a second look at us, rethink their attitudes about or treatment of us, and possibly even treat us with more respect. At the very least, he makes people think about how they're pronouncing our names.
It’s taken me a few days to muster up a response to the election of Barack Obama. I went through it all in stages. At first I was just stunned. Then, elated. Then, too emotional. Then, stunned again. My present mood would best be described as incredibly inspired. Obama makes me want to do everything really, really well. He barely had a father, was raised by a single mom on food stamps, and looked as different as the rest of us. So how do I have any excuse not to do my best? I want to be a better mom, writer, wife, sister, daughter, friend, neighbor, PTA member. In an Obama Nation, somehow, I think my efforts will be recognized, and rewarded. I actually live in a land where our leader was judged not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character. Somewhere, MLK Jr. is smiling.
Michelle Obama inspires me even more. She has been unapologetic about the fact that her first priority will always be her two girls. She even refers to herself as “Mom-in-Chief.” She says she wants to “get to work helping women juggle a career and motherhood.” Hallelujah! Her daughters are still young, so we will have a real, national emblem of working motherhood in the White House. And she and her husband seem so incredibly real.
I also love that the First Lady looks more like me. Not only does she have dark skin, but she’s got real hips and curves – in fact, it may do her well to check out some of our past styling advice for Devis! (Also, how cool are her boots, above?) I predict an onslaught of models of color and make-up lines geared towards women with dark complexions.
It feels weird to be so gung-ho about a President and First Lady. We're used to being extremely cynical about politicians and world leaders. Actually, we're cynical about a lot of stuff. But Obama has every reason to be more cynical than any of us, and he's not. He seems to really believe his own words about hope and change. He's not just feeding us a line; he means it.
Of course, our expectations of Obama are impossibly high. He’ll solve the economic crisis! He’ll reform healthcare! His election will lead to a new day in American poetry and literature! He’ll even cure the common cold! So far, he hasn’t let us down, especially as he signals that he’s going to move quickly to undo some of Bush’s worst dictums on stem-cell research and offshore drilling. But the world’s current love affair with Obama scares me, because, as high as he’s risen today, he has that far to fall. I hope he can manage all the pressure, and I hope people give him a break.
Obama comes as close to a national role model as many of us have seen our my lifetime. I’m going to try to remember that when the going gets tough.