January 11, 2017

We Shall Miss You, but This is What you Left Us.

Dear Obama,

You taught us a lot about courage.

I heard it in the first moments of your farewell address to America tonight.

You spoke about the stereotypes we’re wielding today and how they are the same ones we held so long ago about other immigrants—the Irish, the Poles, the Dutch and many others.

We still must challenge our narrow ideas, which is what Obama was saying in his farewell speech.

We can’t just hold onto what is familiar and secure anymore, because these things are outdated—and, in fact, have always been so.

I heard the soon-to-be former president of the U.S. saying that we must pop the safe bubble we form around our lives in order to grow.

I couldn’t agree more.

While I watched Obama speak, the word that kept coming to my mind was grace.

Grace, by one definition, means, “An allowance of time after a debt or bill has become payable… before suit can be brought against him or her or a penalty applied.”

So maybe, instead of feeling the pressure to say hello to the next president as we bid farewell to Obama, we can welcome the challenge that our new leader brings. This is a special time to grow and remember what it is that we are most in debt to: each other and the earth.

Because that is what we are here to do on this planet. We are here to transform, and this rarely happens unless we face adversity.

The reality of our world will wake us up eventually. As Obama suggested in his farewell, we will not be able to ignore our problems any longer, because they will be ones that slap us continually in the face.

He also said that we need to remember that America was built on freedom and an independent press.

We must draw on these privileges now when we face our current enemies—not those who “speak or pray differently,” but those who hold the biggest money and wield it in the wildest ways.

Obama touched on the premise that we must go back to our morals, those ideals we know in our hearts to be true. We have spent enough time making enemies out of people who are not that.

I am proud of the speech that Obama gave. It was something to admire—and so is he.

He even spoke of enlightenment and of our people waking up:

“We cannot betray America,” he said, “unless we just turn into a country which bullies smaller neighbors[…] None of this happens on its own, all of it depend on our participation.”

I believe we must now claim the privilege that living in North America provides us. We must wield our freedom in an admirable way. Simply because we live here, we can speak up and honor the voice we hear whispering inside of us—a freedom which many others do not have.

Right now, there is no time to spare. We must acknowledge that we have been put here with great power. We are living in a country where we can have a voice and a vision.

Obama’s speech made me want to stand up and holler, for he asked us to be accountable.

Responsibility comes hand in hand with our privilege. Whether we like it or not, we are now the leaders of many who do not yet have the opportunity to be heard.

So what can we do and what can we offer right now?

We can offer our strong voices. In this, I feel, is the energy to create the change we need in our world.

Maybe the new president will be a helpful wake-up call, demanding that we come out of hiding and acknowledge the oppression we’ve been pretending not to see.

As it has been said so many times in the last few month, let’s “make America great again,” through knowing that shift is within us. Such an understanding calls us to dissolve the divisions between us.

May this change that is occurring now bring us new growth and vigor to move forward rather than passively accept defeat.

The best future we could imagine is still possible—and it is our job to make it so. In the words of Barack Obama himself:

“Believe not in my ability to bring about change, but in yours.”

Thank you, Obama. You truly left us with something great.



Author: Sarah Norrad

Image: @elephantjournal on Instagram

Editor: Toby Israel


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