Barack Obama: An MLK Day Appreciation

Barack Obama has been a model for all Americans. As a father, husband, and man, he has set a standard of respect for women.

But like many white people in this country, I underestimated the depth of racism’s roots, and the backlash that Obama’s elevation to the presidency incited. African-Americans themselves were less naïve and surprised when some politicians dug in the heels, determined to oppose and undermine him at every turn, even to the detriment of their constituents and their party.

At times it has seemed that the racial divide is deeper than ever. Obama disagrees, as he told George Stephanopoulos last week. In his “farewell” speech Tuesday night, he said, “I’ve lived long enough” to know things are better than they were. Wise and mature, he has the ability to take the long view. While backlash against the Obama era may have helped elect someone whose agenda has been said by some to skirt dangerously with racist agendas and groups, there’s no erasing the meaning of his presidency and what it represents.

While many of Obama’s achievements may be undermined or overturned, the inroads he has made have left deep tracks. Just as King’s legacy has endured, Obama’s achievements won’t be forgotten. Having had health insurance for the first time, many will suffer acutely if it is taken away. Having had a leader with a measured and peaceful approach to foreign policy, Americans have enjoyed the respite from our soldiers dying or being maimed in foreign wars. Having had an articulate and wise voice responding to crises and emergencies, we’ve grown used to a reassuring leader who models hope, optimism, and inclusiveness.

Most of all, however, Barack Obama has been a model for all Americans. As a father, husband, and man, he has set a standard of respect for women, responsible behavior, and dedication to others that will be his legacy and ours for the history books and future generations, and it’s certain that he hasn’t finished making his mark on this country. Even if our fortunes sink in the future, we can look back with pride and say, once upon a time, we were represented by a man like Barack Obama.


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  • Leslie in Oregon January 16, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    For all the reasons Dr. Ford cites and more, President Obama will be sorely missed. It was our great privilege to have him as our President, and I look forward to supporting his coming endeavors.

  • Mickey January 16, 2017 at 11:12 am

    Thank you for that piece. You’ve written what I’ve thought about, believed. I didn’t believe he would be nominated much less elected. And I was wrong. I’m glad I was wrong about that. A shining example of an American! Thank you again.