January 18, 2017

What we’ve Learned from our First Black President about Equality. {Bonus: 5 Quotes}

I didn’t vote for Obama the first time he ran, and I didn’t vote for him the second, either.

But I still find myself grateful for him.

The first time he ran, I was a Republican. I believed commerce and big business would help make America great because perhaps Reaganomics could work. I knew nothing of women’s healthcare, classism, or the many forms of discrimination that exist–mostly, because I didn’t want to stare my own levels of privilege in the face. If I did, I knew I would have to do something about it.

My privilege stared me in the face anyhow, though. I started to see friends and strangers suffering because of inequality caused by racism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia. So I became curious about why there was inequality at all, and what I could do about it.

I still can’t say I completely understand why inequality and discrimination exist, but I can say that I found some answers during Obama’s presidency.

I saw answers to the question of how to improve equality in his actions during his terms:

>> Repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

>> Adoption of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (which was intended to get all Americans access to healthcare).

>> Legalization of same-sex marriage.

No, Obama, wasn’t a perfect president. But I think he tried to do what he judged best for the country.

Mostly, I learned lessons from his words. Some of my favorite quotes:

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

“One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world.”

“Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.”  

“Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it. Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.”

“We can…live out our lives as best we can with purpose, and love, and joy. We can use each day to show those who are closest to us how much we care about them, and treat others with the kindness and respect that we wish for ourselves…And we can strive at all costs to make a better world, so that someday, if we are blessed with the chance to look back on our time here, we can know that we spent it well; that we made a difference; that our fleeting presence had a lasting impact on the lives of other human beings.”

Mostly, I learned power of one phrase: Yes we can.

We can work together to create the world of our dreams.


Author: Lindsay Lock

Image: The White House/ Flickr; Michael Pittman/ Flickr

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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