Opinion: Thanks for the moments and memories, Obama

For RedEye

On Tuesday, I was fortunate enough to experience live and in person the end of an era for who I believe was arguably one of the best presidents ever—No. 44, Barack Obama. It was the perfect way to end what has been a historic presidency. As I wiped my eyes toward the end of the speech, I couldn’t help but reminisce on some of my favorite moments from the past eight years.

I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t aware of the senator from Illinois who was rising through the political ranks. However, when he ran for president, I became a lifelong supporter. That’s why in 2008, I had no problem standing in line with my family for a few hours to wait to vote early. Although my mother and I had to head to the emergency room (don’t ask) directly after casting our votes, I wasn’t going to miss out on voting—for hope, for change, for America’s first black president. So, that’s why on Nov. 4, 2008, I cried tears of joy. It felt surreal. My family and I sat and stared at the television in amazement as we listened to Obama’s victory speech in Grant Park, with his beautiful family by his side. What a story I would have for my future children!

On Jan. 20, 2009, I wanted to make my way to Washington, D.C., to watch as Obama was sworn into office. Instead, I did the second-best thing–took a personal day from work and watched from my bedroom with tears streaming down my face. Between Aretha Franklin and her hat, Malia and Sasha’s cute little J.Crew outfits and Michelle and Barack walking down the street hand in hand waving proudly, I felt like I was right in the midst of it all. Then, for Obama and the first lady to end off the night dancing to one of my favorite songs “At Last”… just stick a fork in me. I was done. Needless to say, I went to bed with tear-stained pillows.

Then, in March 2010, Obama won a historic victory with Obamacare being signed into law. Fast-forward one year, he declared, “Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden ...” Yes, POTUS! Wins all around.

Obama continued to give us many more memorable moments, some presidential and some showing why he’s just simply a remarkable human being. What president gave us Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” so effortlessly at the Apollo Theater? Later that same year, he echoed the sentiments of most Americans as he stood at the podium to tearfully address the Sandy Hook tragedy. Time and time again, he reminded us that he was not only our president, but a regular person just like the rest of us.

Although he was humble, Obama had a few moments where he reminded us that he is still THE man, and we better never forget that. Let’s never forget the 2015 State of the Union address where he had a rare cocky moment and stated, “I have no more campaigns to run … I know because I won both of them.” I’m almost certain I wasn’t the only one who wanted our president to totally step out of character and tell the haters to stay mad, either him or (uncle in my head) Joe Biden. I, for one, would have loved every bit of that.

In my opinion, the good far outweighed the bad during Obama’s eight years in office. We will never have, at least not any time soon, a cooler, calmer, more family-oriented and just plain ol’ DOPE president than Barack Hussein Obama. We are at the end of an amazing era and entering into unknown, challenging territory. But as Obama so eloquently expressed on Tuesday, we must be vigilant but not afraid.

That’s why I proudly stood in line with my friends for hours to get a standing-room-only ticket to hear Obama’s farewell address in the city I love so much, the city where it all started for the unknown senator named Barack Obama. That’s why I screamed like never before as Obama stood at the mic on Tuesday and said, “Hello, Chicago.” That’s why I chanted “FOUR MORE YEARS” and meant it. That’s why tears filled my eyes and eventually fell as he gave a heartfelt shout-out to his wife and daughters. That’s why I made sure to document my first and last Obama speech live from McCormick Place on Snapchat and saved them to Memories. It’s definitely my favorite Obama memory.

As he said Tuesday, “Yes we can. Yes we did.” He’s certainly earned the right to go play ball, lie on a sandy, white beach with his wife, take his daughters to lunch and simply relax. So, next week, he can drop the mic one last time and say “Obama out.” It’s been real, President Obama.

Lela Olds is a RedEye contributor.

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