I was 9 years old when Barack Obama was elected president.
The only moment of the 2008 Election Night I remember was Jesse Jackson crying on the TV because my dad was also crying at that point. My mom kept me home from school on Jan. 20, 2009 to watch his inauguration, and I vaguely remember watching Aretha Franklin and Yo-Yo Ma perform (neither of which 9-year-old me would have considered myself a fan). There were also two girls about my age up on the stage, with their beautiful, strong mother.
Obama’s administration shaped the America I grew up in, the America of my most formative years.
Growing up under Obama’s administration convinced me I was strong, safe, valued, and I could achieve anything. I knew there was someone in the government looking out for me, and my friends, no matter what.
The very first bill Obama signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which lengthened the statute of limitations in pay discrimination lawsuits. The president made it immediately clear he cared about me, as even if 9-year-old me didn’t understand what pay inequality exactly was, I knew it helped women.
The act I remember hearing about the most early in Obama’s presidency was the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, making her the first Hispanic justice. Again, even if I did not comprehend what the Supreme Court was, I knew that Obama’s actions were significant and benefitted the people around me.
As I got older, I began to absorb the news more and grew to have a slight understanding of current events. At the time of the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in 2010, which reversed the policy banning LGBTQ+ members of the military from serving openly, I understood that the policy had been unfair and that Obama were now helping people.
It was not until a few years later that I fully comprehended the Act, and immediately was appreciative of our president’s actions. Another powerful image I didn’t fully understand showed up on my doorstep– with the cover of a 2012 Newsweek, declaring Obama the “First Gay President” and putting a rainbow halo above his head. I remember looking at it, wondering if my president was really the first one to support LGBTQ+ rights, and not understanding how that was possible.
I literally grew up with the Obama daughters, from being huge fans of the Jonas Brothers to applying to college at similar times. Michelle devoted her time as First Lady to empowering girls all over the world, again making me feel like I had power in this country. The most educated First Lady, Michelle is the champion of girls everywhere. She fearlessly faced racist and sexist attacks and ridicule, never faltering in her poise and class. Michelle is more than any First Lady has even attempted to be– brilliant, brave, sometimes dorky, and inspirational.
Growing up with the Obamas meant I had a couple in the White House who are so charismatic and uplifting, their first date was made into an indie movie.
The Obama administration gave me an America where all people I knew were encouraged to thrive, through its policies as well as the representation the Obamas brought to the White House. I know in the coming years, the generation raised under Obama will continue to support and raise up one another.