I wasn’t awake to watch the State of the Union. But when I pulled it open the next morning and read through his words, I was proud of my president.
In 2009 when he was sworn into office, I was nursing an epically broken heart. As I had voted for him two months earlier, I wondered what that decision would mean for my fledgling relationship.
You see, I loved a man who was also a (gasp) Republican. When I fell in love with him, I never stopped to consider his political beliefs or the importance of their divergence from my own independent thoughts. I just knew I loved him. I loved his full beard. I loved his sharp wit. I loved the way he kissed me. I loved how he captured the world in photographs. And I loved the sound of his voice on the other end of the phone line.
But somehow I instinctively knew I was risking that love by putting my faith in Barack Obama.
I trusted my heart and voted for him anyway.
And then I kept my mouth shut. Temporarily.
I talk a lot. And I’m terrible at keeping my own secrets. So within weeks, I told my boyfriend who I had voted for and why. Most memorably, I remember telling him that I would be honored to have Barack Obama sit at my table for dinner. I felt we had a polite discourse about it. And life went on normally for a little bit.
Until my birthday, when I spent all day looking out the window, waiting for him to come as we had planned—the long haul through Wyoming and across Nebraska to see his Iowa girl.
But he didn’t ever come. And at 10:30 p.m. I received a text notifying me that he had decided that he couldn’t be with someone who could so ignorantly vote for the man who would be the sure ruin of the United States. He couldn’t be with someone who would invite such chaos to the dinner table. But he also said Happy Birthday.
I was flummoxed.
That following January, through tears of hope I watched the 44th president of the United States take his oath of office. That same day I wrote this:
“Today marks a historic event in this country. A historic event that will always be juxtaposed with my solitary broken heart. But an event I’m proud to say I played a part of… and one that is offering hope for change to not only just one mid-western girl but also to an entire nation.
So I guess I will just heal and change along with this nation. We’ll take those steps together.”
All these years later, I remain proud of the man I helped promote to the office of President.
I still hold fast to a wide berth of independent beliefs. And I know that I’ll never be able to confidently tick the box Republican or Democrat. But, in 2008, I picked the right man for the job.
And I would gladly bear that broken heart again to allow him a chance to fix this country.
I respect the office of the presidency. I respect the man who has held it for eight years. And I respect the words he spoke during his State of the Union address.
More importantly, I respect the way he has done his job. With a mission in place. With passion. And with my best interest at heart.
DC may always be owned by people who have more power, more money and more influence than I do. I know this.
But I also know that there are men and women there who are making every effort to change this.
President Obama said:
“America has been through big changes before — wars and depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights. Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears. We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the “dogmas of the quiet past.” Instead we thought anew, and acted anew. We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more and more people. And because we did — because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril — we emerged stronger and better than before.”
I begin this last year of President Obama’s term as hopeful as I entered his first.
I believe in this country. I believe in the men and women who serve it in our armed forces every day. I believe in the job I do serving those men and women and their families.
I still believe we can do better than the angry, divisive rhetoric spewing out of the campaigns.
I still believe we can.
I may have done more healing in the past eight years than this country has—but my faith remains intact. And President Obama, I’d still be honored to have you and your family seated around my dinner table.
Author: Jessica Chardoulias
Editor: Toby Israel