Tomorrow, Donald Trump will become the President of the United States.
Let that sink in for a moment.
For 2921 days, Barack Obama has served this nation’s people to the best of his ability. He has given his energy and expertise to the people looking to heal, to fight for what’s right, and to be better than who they were yesterday.
And tomorrow, that chapter ends. Dog-ears from saved pages unfolded, that book will be neatly closed and placed on a shelf of stories that have only been memories to us.
I don’t know where exactly to go from here, but what I can tell you is this: one foot forward, one step at a time, one stubborn staircase after another as we stumble for strength. Forward is the way of hope.
“Change only happens when ordinary people come together to demand it.”
Barack Obama taught me that behind policy decisions and speeches given at important dinners, behind debates and addresses at states of the union, behind politics and partisan leans, there exists a profoundly evident truth that no matter the spotlight or wreckage, the character of a person is greater than decisions made. The integrity of the love someone has for others is deeper than fear. The drive for excellence is rooted in being genuinely good.
He is proof of this.
With every step, he moved with such an awareness of human dignity. More than anything else, he embodied what we all look for at some point or another: the spirit of hope. The idea that we matter, that we’re important, that the work we do is important. The idea that our identities are valid and real and transforming. The idea that we can be the light for others without taking their shine away; we can be the flame to ignite others to think and do better, to take stubborn steps into love every day.
Many will remember him as someone who accomplished very little. If you are one of those people, I implore you to reconsider. I encourage you to extend yourself outside of party lines and think bigger. Dig a little deeper. Get uncomfortable with the fact that it’s possible to not staunchly disagree with every little thing that came out of Obama’s lungs.
To those who are losing hope with each passing day, I echo Obama in his farewell speech: “Show up. Dive in. Stay at it.”
It’s not enough to sit idle and wish things were different. It’s not enough to fill the world with a pessimistic view that things will not get better. Use Obama’s legacy as a blueprint to creating your own framework. Find progress to build on top of the progress so many have already built.
Read often. Soak the words from the page into your mind’s eye and allow them to change you. Listen intently and with sincere curiosity. Allow yourself the gift of changing your mind sometimes. Allow yourself the humility to admit when you’re wrong, or to agree with people who are different from you. Write yourself into an existence that the world has no option but to smile at. Because at the end of the day, there is a beacon of hope in the distance that we are all begging lighthouses to find.
Be that light for others. Let others be that light for you.
This is what Obama is talking about when he talks about hope. Soon, we will hear less from Obama. Maybe not at all. So take this moment, breathe it in deeply. Close your eyes and look into yourself. If you’re looking for a reason to have hope, this is it.
Now let’s get to work.