When my parents first moved from South Africa to the United States, they told me they had now opened up “a world of opportunities” for my brother and I. A phrase that just sounded like sweet nothings until November 4th, 2008 when for the first time, a man whose skin tone resembled my own, was elected to the highest office in the United States of America. I took for granted back then how impactful growing up in an America that was governed by the first black president would be, but now as his days are winding down, I am realizing just how much the legacy of Barack Obama and his beautiful family has inspired me to know the world of opportunities that my parents opened for me when they hauled us from South Africa to the United States.
Tears rolled down my eyes as I listened to our First Lady, Michelle Obama, condemn Donald Trump’s campaign slogan. “America is already great!!” she exclaimed, “In what other country could a man born to a Kenyan immigrant work his way to Harvard and then to Senate and now to the presidency!” Those words hit me like a train. As a child born to an immigrant family, I realized the doors that the Obama family had shown me were possible for me. Doors that my parents knew were there for me but were visualized in seeing President Obama sit at that oval office for 8 years.
The most formative years of my life were spent watching a family that looked like mine living in the White House. I saw the President of the United States, arguably the most powerful man in the world, STILL have to combat racism at every corner, a struggle that the black man knows all too well; but yet he still persevered and succeeded. Through the years, I’ve realized that if the President of the United States still has to fight racism, then I definitely will too. But just like President Obama, I will not let it stop me from my dream; and once I reach my dream, I will not let racism define the position that I’m in. I will do what I’m called to do in the best way that I can – just as President Obama has.
President Obama is not just inspiring to me because he is black. He is also the epitome of grace and elegance. As FLOTUS always says “when they go high, we go low” and they have embodied this through every racial slur thrown at them, every lie uttered about their family, every time their ability to lead is undermined, President Obama and his family respond with class and respect. I look up to both the POTUS and the FLOTUS so much, not only in giving me hopes about my career prospect, but also in the type of person I desire to be: A person of grace and elegance, just like the first family.