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toes were frozen, but my heart was warm and full. I was standing on the
National Mall, just behind the Reflecting Pool, huddled with countless other teeth-chattering citizens there to witness President Barack Obama’s second
inauguration. This was history happening, once again, and I was part of it—this
I'd missed the first truly landmark moment four years ago. I'd wanted to
be there live, too, giddy and hollering like everyone else, but I was nine
months pregnant, only three weeks away from giving birth to my first child: a
son. A son who, like the newly re-elected president, is biracial. A son who, like
Barack Obama, could grow up to be the president of the United States.
wanted to write about what Barack Obama represents to me and to my young son’s
future for more than four years. The words about all of it
have swirled around my mind, gathering up sentiment and strength since we
first found out that we were having a boy. However, each time I’ve tried to
spill these words onto a page, I’ve been overwhelmed and often have had to smooth
away tears—proud, happy ones—gathering at the corners of my eyes. But standing
there in the very chilled, early morning, my golden ticket tucked safely inside
the chest of my heavy winter coat, I was bursting to tell anyone willing
to listen: I’m here watching the future unfold, and it’s brilliant!
I was bursting to tell anyone willing to listen: I’m here watching the future unfold, and it’s brilliant!
politics aside, it is important that this man is our president. Given the
nation’s complicated and often harsh history, we can all recognize the sheer
significance of a man of color elected to be the leader of the free world. For
me, this mother of a toffee-colored boy, it is what Mr. Obama symbolizes that
matters most. He’s this beacon of promise and change, of purpose and kicked-opened
my son’s actual DNA—or maybe because of it—he will be viewed too often through
that faulty lens reserved for other black boys and later men: disposable,
trouble, incapable, worthless. All the positive parental coaching and chorus
singing of “You matter” sound like
whispers up against the unkind roar of media, educators, the majority telling
him he most certainly does not.
This president is a red-blooded response to all
of it. Whereas before I would likely tell my son about what might happen if he works hard, now I can
point to what actually happened. He’s the precedent—this president—for what
it looks like to reach beyond the idea
of possibilities and potential and grab hold of the fact that greatness is
real, and it’s there for you, no matter what this lopsided world might try to
inauguration was excellent. I can still feel the excitement tingling in my
fingertips. I was there! And I have the swag to prove it. One of the things I
brought home was an official inauguration 2013 T-shirt for my husband. On it,
the smiling faces of the president and vice president.
want to see,” my son said when I handed it to his dad.
the president of the United States, sweet potato,” I said, pointing. “That’s
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.”
took a beat, letting their faces settle in. My husband began folding the shirt
when our son said, “Wait, let me see the other guy again.”
President Barack Obama,” I said again. “He looks like you.”
son tilted his head, smiled and said: “You’re right, Mom! He does look like
me,” and returned to his breakfast. And like that, without even knowing it,
this almost-4-year-old kid proved my point and left me brimming with hope.