Last month I heard an invitation for people to describe what Mr. Obama’s presidency had meant to them.
Because of his perspicacity regarding our common humanity, President Obama spoke to all people – all over the world, not just to his followers.
“Yes, We Can!” he exclaimed repeatedly in his 2012 New Hampshire speech; and in response to the roaring ovation he replied, “I Love You Back.”
In another charismatic exhortation he said, “We are the ones we have been waiting for; we are the change we seek.” Ironically he had undiminished talent for galvanizing people for our greater good; but at the same time he reached individual hearts.
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Although he was a president for all people; I was personally affected by his presidency.
I will never forget when upon delivering the eulogy to the parishioners in Charleston, he spoke on the theme of grace. And after a respectful pause, without cue or pitch, he began to sing acapella “Amazing Grace.”
The Church was on its feet in surprise; we could not believe it was the president actually singing – in part because he made so pleasant a sound. He sang with his own voice, coming from his own heart.
The greatest effect that Mr. Obama’s presidency had on me personally was hope.
President Obama and I both grew up in Chicago. I know that he was reared by his single, white mother. I know he has overcome many obstacles to become the man he is.
I understand this because I was a throwaway kid who was first made a ward-of-the-state at age 2, who grew up in a children’s home, and who has provided for all of my education and every dime of everything I’ve ever had in my life.
I am filled with hope knowing both he and I did not implode with despair and cynicism; but with hard work, perseverance, and hope, we succeeded.
As Mr. Obama is the father of two daughters, I know he’d agree there is no more vulnerable person than a young girl abandoned by her parents to grow up in a children’s home. I believe he’d say, as most fathers would, that his daughters would never be able to “make it” without him. This personally reaches me, because you see, I was that abandoned girl.
I am aware that most people upon first impression, appraise me as a male born into privilege. None of that is true.
I am a 64-year-old “regular guy” who 34 years ago underwent gender reassignment. This was before the internet, and before the present-day medical understandings and legal provisions. Mr. Obama’s presidency personally affected me because as a president for all people, he demonstrated that this includes transsexual citizens.
I was not able to get a U.S. passport until I was 61 years old. I have worked, worked, worked, and have become a “success.” I’ve paid into FICA and social security since I was 15.
But I could not prove I was born in the USA. I could not travel abroad. I was a second-class citizen. Try living graciously with that!
For 25 years I have performed a “white shirt” job, all the while acting like everything was just hunky-dory, and living in stealth for most all of my life in order to survive.
During Mr. Obama’s presidency, the U.S. State Department, upon further enlightenment, eased its requirements for trans persons obtaining a passport. I had already “crossed the Rubicon” and therefore these “easier” requirements did not directly pertain to me. But this and the inclusive and affirming attitude of the Obama administration gave me courage to summon up some hope, and to try yet again to obtain a Passport.
I’m sure you will never understand how proud I am of my passport, which most citizens take for granted. It states that I am Blaine Paxton Hall, that I am male, born July 9, 1952 in Cambridge, Ohio, USA. Finally, I may unequivocally affirm these things. And no one can take it away from me.
Mr. Obama was a president for all the people. The greatest impact his presidency had on me is hope. Not just any pie-in-the sky hope, but personalized hope.
Hail and farewell to the Chief. I will sorely miss you.
Blaine Paxton Hall lives in Chatham County.