I will miss President Obama. From day one I have admired and applauded nearly everything he has done. I believe history will see him as one of our greatest presidents.
I had the good fortune of attending his inauguration. My son-in-law, a former congressman from Oregon, had reserved seats close to the capitol platform. When I boarded the train from Durham, I was not surprised that it was filled to capacity with a majority of African Americans. Excitement and celebration filled the coach. Who would have ever thought that our country would have a black president!
The event occurred on a very cold day, and we shivered for two hours sitting on metal chairs and watching the multitude arrive like a sea of humanity. The crowd reached all the way back to the Washington monument. In retrospect, I think it fair to judge that perhaps the most important achievement in Obama’s impressive legacy is the fact of his election. He emerged from such a bizarre background that it looked providential. The whole world was amazed that our democracy voted for him.
Obama’s election led many to conclude that at last our country was rising above racism, but almost immediately it became abundantly clear that this was not the case. Instead, it brought to the surface an awareness of widespread hatred of our new president because he was black. In Congress there was an attempt to block everything he tried to do. Although there has been strong denial that race had anything to do with the hostility, the evidence to the contrary has been compelling.
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Despite the efforts to make him fail, his legacy is astonishing. The economic stimulus led to a steady increase in employment month after month. He saved the automobile industry. He got rid of “Don’t ask; don’t tell.” He helped wind down the war with Iraq. He supported same-sex marriage. He relied on diplomacy in dealing with Iran. He opened access to Cuba. Twenty-five million Americans have health care because of him.
It is ironic that a primary reason for segregation was to prohibit racial intermarriage. Now intermarriage is legal and generally accepted. As a white clergyman I have officiated at a dozen or so such unions. Go sit on a bench at The Streets at Southpoint mall and you are likely to see many interracial couples walk by.
I am very optimistic for the future. The South I recall as a child is fading fast. I remember going to the Greenwood, S.C., railway station at night and seeing large groups of black people boarding the Silver Meteor heading North for more freedom and a better life. Today there is a reverse migration of African Americans returning to their roots all across Dixie.
We are blessed to have many blacks entering the political arena and providing excellent leadership.
Indeed, I would wager that if Obama had the option of running for a third term as president, he could win.
His favorability percentage is 55 percent.
President Obama has made America great again!
Robert Seymour is the minister emeritus of Olin T. Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Chapel Hill.