Obama’s legacy will be inspiring black Americans everywhere

I watched him speak on the campaign trail

50 years ago, my grandmother couldn’t attend school with her white friends because of the color of her skin. She still tells me stories about life in North Carolina during the Jim Crow era, when black people weren’t able to vote, when civil rights workers were attacked by police dogs and sprayed down with fire hoses. It sounds like a different world today.

50 years on, and I watched Barack Obama, the first black president of America, deliver a speech on Hillary Clinton’s campaign trail in that same state. He is living proof to my grandmother that the hardships suffered during the 60s for equal rights have not all been in vain.

For a young African American like myself, Obama is the greatest inspiration of my generation. Though politics in America has taken a turn for the worse in my opinion, Obama and his family have remained an example of class and character for his whole term in office. He’s a great speaker, he’s incredibly accomplished, and to me, he’s relatable.

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When have we ever had a president with a decent jump shot? A president who actually knows the cool contemporary rap artists and interacts with them. A president who used to smoke and drink in college like normal students. As an aspiring journalist, Obama is even more of an inspiration for me since he is a former editor and the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. In addition to these credentials and his amazing public speaking abilities, he’s also a best-selling author and a Grammy award winner. Even before his political career, Obama reached the heights of his field and gained some of its highest honors, and he did it as a black man in America.

His list of credentials and accomplishments is vast, but it’s Obama’s role as a family man and role model which I believe we can find the most inspiration in. Obama has two beautiful daughters and a wife who’s almost as accomplished as he is, with no scandals marring his administration.

In all of his eight years in office I haven’t witnessed Obama lose his temper. He is as cool and collected as they come and its very hard to get him to lose his composure: many have tried to rattle Obama at different points during his presidency with little success. This is something I admire him greatly for – name another politician who would have kept their cool in passing the Affordable Care Act.

Obama’s not perfect and I’ll be the first one to tell you. My disillusionment with politics does not stop at the White House, and there are many things I think Obama could have handled better in his position. I don’t think he did enough to upset the status quo in Washington and bring more power back to the people. I don’t think he did enough to combat special interests and corporate greed in our public policy.

But the one thing Obama did that nobody can ever take from him is that he proved there’s a way for us. He showed it was possible for an African American to be the most powerful man in the world and rise to the highest position in the land. I’m not one to fall in the myth of individualism and or the inferiority complex that surrounds many minority communities, but before Obama there were few specific role models I could name you besides Dr Martin Luther King and Paul Robeson.

In his speech yesterday in North Carolina’s White Oak Amphitheater, Obama told us the story of a local councilman from 50 years ago. In the same era that my grandmother was turned away from getting an education, this councilman was denied the right to vote in North Carolina for failing a so-called literacy test. This was a man who had graduated college. His name was Henry Frye, the first African-American chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Race relations are a long way from ideal in America today – I’ve seen firsthand and spoken to the people suffering from police brutality. But Obama has shown us just how far we’ve come. His legacy for black Americans will last for years.

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North Carolina State University