This week, this country bid farewell to Barack Obama – our 44th President. There have been hundreds (thousands?) of articles paying tribute to the country’s first African American president. This week, I don’t plan to compete with them :)
Since the election, I have been re-reading Obama’s book The Audacity of Hope, re-watching his many state-of-the-union addresses, and re-living his convention speeches. Over and over again, I have returned back to the following passage from Obama’s speech in Philadelphia during the 2008 race:
I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners — an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.
In no other country on Earth is my story even possible.
So it is that on this Friday, January 20th, on the inauguration of our 45th President, that I am choosing to be thankful. I am thankful that we can bear witness to a peaceful transition of power from two diametrically different people. I am thankful that for most of my time in the US, I have had leaders and mayors that I value, respect, admire and would have voted for. I am thankful that I live in a country that values democracy in a world where every vote does not count. I am thankful that the opportunities that made Barack Obama our President are the same opportunities that my father offered to me when he came to Canada as a refugee, fleeing a dictatorship.
And I am thankful today, and every day, to work for this organization and serve our 2,200 students and 120+ villages and communities. Teaching our youngest citizens how to read and write nurtures the bedrock of our democracy, and I am blessed to have the opportunity to help in that process.
I have hope that the democracies from developing countries, like Zambia, will come to take the center stage and provide a voice for the most marginalized citizens of the world. I have hope that I will live to see many more leaders and mayors that I value, respect, admire and would vote for. And I have hope that the story of Barack Obama will become less exceptional as our world becomes increasingly flat. As President Obama put it, I have the audacity of hope.