It was a huge honour to be able to invite President Barack and Michelle Obama down to the British Virgin Islands for a complete break after Barack finished his second term as President and the family left the White House. One of the first stories Barack told me when he and Michelle arrived on Moskito Island was how, just before he became President, he had been surfing on a dangerous break in Hawaii. When he came in from an exhilarating session, the new head of his security team turned to him and said: “This will be the last time you surf for eight years.” For the next eight years he didn’t have the chance to surf, enjoy watersports or do many of the things he loved. So it was tremendous to offer him the chance to learn to kitesurf.
“The road ahead will be long,
Our climb will be steep,
We may not get there in one year, or even one term,
But America, I have never been more hopeful
Than I am tonight that we will get there.”… (Prez Barack Obama, 11/4/2008)
Put down the Kleenex. Tilt your head up high. Now shout at the top of your lungs. YES WE DID!!! We Obamacrats, Americans, and world citizens can proudly puff out our chests and say we got us a really fine gem of a president. He not only served us productively during his 8-year tenure, he did so without a whiff of scandal, his diligence razor sharp, his humility and empathy never in doubt, and lit up our dreary moments with that smile and quick wit.
How many of us young and young at heart, and even detractors, can say we’ve ever been so absorbed day in and day out with any President at such a granular level, as we have Prez Barack Hussein Obama? Sure, the technologies of our age simulate such high levels of intimacy with political leaders we may never meet. But the Obamas made us live vicariously in the warm embrace of their hugs.
Beyond policy convergence, we felt their human connection to us to be genuine. Not posturing. And prior to winning the presidency, candidate Obama himself opened the sluice gates to many of us to dive into political engagement through both electronic media and human to human contact in the streets
How many of you got connected politically with complete strangers for the first time by signing up on http://www.barackobama.com and eagerly awaited David Plouffe’s weekly map update? How many of you created “Dashboard” pages on that website to organize people you knew, to volunteer, donate, host house meetings and parties, make calls, register people in the streets, enter registration data, or even quit your jobs to go to “Summer organizing school”?
Be honest, how many of us of a certain age (wink, wink) would have gotten clued in to much of Social media — Twitter, Snapchat, etc. or programs consumed mostly by millennials such as Between Two Ferns with Zack Galifianakis, and You Tube sensations like Ms. Glozell Green, Ingrid “Glamourazzi” Nilsen, Adande “sWoozie” Thorne…., and much of social media lingo, if not for Barack H. Obama?
Besides substantial policy advances, he and First Lady Michelle Obama, made us all indulge in the hip and cool. We dropped the mic and sang soul and karaoke along with them. We ooohed and aaaahed the marshmallow cannon and others at the geeky WH science exhibits. We clutched our virtual passports, got aboard Airforce One on its 400 flights, and trekked all 50 states of America and around the world with them – Dublin, Myanmar, Moneygall, Moscow, Canberra, Strasbourg, Prague, Havana, Dakar, Accra, ……
But why did many of us suspend our cynicism during the Obama presidency? Why did we believe him? The historical track record of politicians has earned that species a well-deserved cynicism. But not Barack Obama. Why? Sure, policy disagreements and all for some, but few besides his virulent opposition and rabid racists doubted his integrity.
We checked our cynicism at the door because he invited us, as thinking people, to embark on the tough journey of making America a “more perfect union” with him, warts and all. He also welcomed us to peer into the depths of his humanity (not like GW Bush looking into Putin’s soul), and many of us felt comfortable, even inspired. He was more than family even if some never physically met him. He never patronized us. He never left us out in the cold. Never.
Some of us ached with anguish when the opposition slammed the political barricades hard in his face at a time when this country teetered on the brink of economic collapse, and we thought “surely, country first, right?” Wrong.
With President Obama, many of us were jolted to the harsh reality that Republicans cared more about raw power than America’s wellbeing. They dragged us through an orgy of vileness on every front imaginable. Worst of all, the electorate rewarded them up and down this country with more power to destroy all the pillars of democracy and human rights that had been fought for with blood and toil. What country is this!
As a naturalized American citizen, whose very first vote in this country was for candidate Obama during the 2008 Democratic primaries, I, along with many of you feel a certain sense of co-ownership of the Obama presidential journey. It was us at our very best! We chose well. Eight years, no scandals. NONE! Competence, class, dignity, vision, empathy, real accomplishments.
Barack Obama is the stuff legends are made of. And we were lucky to witness it, and co-write this chapter of America’s story. So yeah, tilt that chin up. Y’all did good.
“Hard things are hard,” is inscribed on a plaque in the Obama White House. Yep, they are. And once achieved they must be safeguarded with hawk eyes, else a Trump wrecking ball overruns us.
But as President Obama said, we’re just getting started. We’re not gonna turn him into a fossil to gaze at on a pedestal in a shrine. As CITIZENS our task, our vigilance shifts to second gear tomorrow. Foot to the pedal. Stay Woke.
P.S. Our gratitude knows no bounds for Chips and NerdyWonka, who captained this incredible electronic corner of bliss and sanity for our journey with the Obama Family, in a sea of venom. Thank you thank you, thank you.
And kudos to all you fellow travelers on this site. You made this Obama story possible. You made it fierce. Let’s ALL #staywoke.
Jonathan Van Meter: Michelle Obama: A Candid Conversation With America’s Champion And Mother in Chief
Once she got her daughters acclimated—she routinely referred to herself as “Mom in chief”—the Harvard-educated lawyer took on issues like support for military families and healthy eating. “It was pooh-poohed as a sort of soft swing at the ball,” she says. By the middle of the second term, she had become more ambitious—launching two education initiatives, Reach Higher and Let Girls Learn—and over the past year and a half finding her métier, turning herself into the First Lady of Popular Culture, mastering social media (thanks to her proximity to a certain couple of teenage girls), appearing as herself on shows like NCIS and Parks and Recreation, singing karaoke with James Corden, and basically charming the pants off of everyone. Somewhere along the way, she became the greatest political communicator of our time—better than Bill Clinton, better than her husband—someone whose speeches actually start national conversations. And throughout all of this, she has remained one of the most glamorous women in the world—admired by teenagers and grandmothers alike—
whose daring fashion instincts have won her near-universal accolades from an industry that had a champion in the White House for the first time in decades. When she wore that showstopping Atelier Versace rose-gold chain-mail column to her final state dinner in October, the Internet worked itself into a state of collective mourning over the fact that there will be no more Michelle Obama fashion moments to obsess about. The White House has changed quite a bit in the past eight years, becoming much warmer, far less formal, and distinctly more diverse. Obamalot, if you will. They have created an ecosystem that is so effortlessly inclusive that, for example, Joe Mahshie, a trip coordinator for the First Lady, and Brian Mosteller, director of Oval Office operations, were married by Joe Biden at his home just a few months ago. Mahshie, my minder today, tells me that he first met Mrs. Obama when his then boyfriend Mosteller took him to join the SoulCycle class that the First Lady goes to once a week with White House staffers. Mahshie and Mrs. Obama struck up a conversation; one of her staffers was taken aback by his forwardness: “Do you know her?” No, we just met, he replied. “Was I not supposed to talk to her? Should I have curtsied?” He laughs. “She creates that possibility.”
He has become the Democratic nominee’s most unvarnished and indispensable champion. the president clearly takes extra pleasure campaigning in battleground states against Republicans who didn’t consider Trump an affront to the conscience until the GOP nominee’s poll numbers tanked. Obama is repurposing a critique he’s been making for years, in public and in private, directed at Republican officeholders themselves. His retooled stump speech is crafted not just to fire up Democratic voters against Trump, but to overwhelm other Republican politicians with a sense of dread by making them recognize the huge mistake they made not listening to him. Some of these Republicans are only now realizing that Obama was right all along. But, as he’s now saying, it’s too late. Obama’s taking his argument to the voting public, and Trump is precisely the totem he needs to make it stick.
[T]here are a lot of politicians who knew better. There are a lot of senators who knew better. But they went along with these stories because they figured, you know what, this will help rile up the base, it will give us an excuse to obstruct what we’re trying to do, we won’t be able to appoint judges, we’ll gum up the works, we’ll create gridlock, it will give us a political advantage. So they just stood by and said nothing. And their base began to actually believe this crazy stuff. So Donald Trump did not start this. Donald Trump didn’t start it. He just did what he always did, which is slap his name on it, take credit for it, and promote it. That’s what he does. And so now when suddenly it’s not working, and people are saying, wow, this guy is kind of out of line, all of a sudden, these Republican politicians who were okay with all this crazy stuff up to a point, suddenly they’re all walking away. “Oh, this is too much.” … Well, what took you so long? What the heck?
When Barack Obama took office, America’s seven largest publicly traded college operators were worth a combined $51 billion, with more than 815,000 students enrolled at campuses spread across the country. The schools were flooded with with people seeking shelter from the recession, returning to school to pick up new skills. Almost eight years later, the industry has been decimated. The seven largest listed operators are worth just over $6 billion, and the most valuable company in the sector has spent the last two years desperately trying to become a non-profit. Two of the largest companies in 2009 are now bankrupt, and two more are in the process of being taken private. A withering war on for-profit schools by federal and state authorities, combined with an improving economy that made trade schools less lucrative, has left the industry a shadow of its former self. It could be one of the defining legacies of the Obama era.
The administration’s more aggressive approach hit its stride in its final two years, as the Education Department honed and expanded its power. It pushed through a set of strict new rules late in 2014, and is preparing to pass another that could have even more far-reaching impact. Last month, one of its long-standing foes, the ITT Tech chain of for-profit colleges — valued at $4.6 billion in early 2009 — filed for bankruptcy after an Education Department ruling effectively ended its viability as a business. The Education Department has begun to turn the tables on for-profit schools by using their almost total dependence on government money as an avenue for regulatory power. It is seeking to make access to federal dollars conditional on schools changing their practices — for example, by requiring schools to eliminate mandatory arbitration clauses from their enrollment contracts, giving students the right to sue.
She rose up and she stood up
And she said, “Listen here”
And she was our grandmothers
And mothers through the years
This was the lesson they all had tried
To teach us to take in our stride:
To rise up and stand up
To rise up and stand up.
Treat us with dignity
We are your women and girls
Treat us as equals
We are your diamonds and pearls
Treat us with respect
We are your soulmates and loves
Treat us as partners
When push comes to shove
Give us our due
As we return it to you
Rise up and stand up
Speak up and give a hand up ~
Enough is enough
Enough is enough, through and through
On Air With Ryan Seacrest: President Obama On Donald Trump & Hillary Clinton’s First Debate, Biggest Concerns For Future & CollegeLingo
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton went head to head at Long Island’s Hofstra University for the first presidential debate of the 2016 general election Monday night. Moderated by NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, Trump and Clinton presented two conflicting visions for the country as they laid out their blueprint for the economy, crime and policing, foreign policy, and argued about each other’s temperament, “birtherism,” and more.
Following the heated debate, President Barack Obama called On Air with Ryan Seacrest Tuesday morning (National Voter Registration Day) to weigh in on Trump and Clinton’s exchange, admit his biggest concerns for the future, and to remind listeners to register to vote before the general election deadline on October 24. “We’ve got a website, IWillVote.com, and you can text forward to 47246. Get information about the place in your state where you can vote online, or where your precinct is. A lot of states now you can vote by mail.”
Laura Bassett: Obama Moves To Protect Planned Parenthood Funding, Permanently
The Obama administration has proposed a new rule that would prevent states from defunding Planned Parenthood or any other family planning provider for political reasons. The new rule which the Department of Health and Human Services proposed last week, says that states cannot withhold Title X federal family planning money from certain recipients for any reason other than the “provider’s ability to deliver services to program beneficiaries in an effective manner.” That means states can no longer vote to defund Planned Parenthood because some of its clinics offer abortion services.
“This will make a real difference in so many people’s lives,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood. “Thanks to the Obama administration, women will still be able to access the birth control they need to plan their families, and the cancer screenings they need to stay healthy.” The Title X program provides basic preventive health care and family planning services for 4 million low-income Americans. About 85 percent of patients who use Title X have incomes below $23,500. Planned Parenthood serves about a third of those patients, using the $70 million a year it receives in Title X grants to subsidize contraceptives and cancer and sexually transmitted infection screenings for people who can’t afford them.
Carrie Johnson: Obama Grants Clemency To 111 Prisoners; DOJ ‘Confident’ It Will Clear Backlog
President Obama shortened the prison sentences of 111 inmates Tuesday, including 35 people who had expected to spend the rest of their lives in federal custody, authorities told NPR. Word of the new batch of clemency grants came as the second in command at the Justice Department told NPR that lawyers there have worked through an enormous backlog of drug cases and, despite doubts from prisoner advocates, they will be able to consider each of the thousands of applications from drug criminals before Obama leaves office in 2017.
[CHART CORRECTION] @POTUS just commuted 111 people, bringing the total to more than the past 10 presidents combined. https://t.co/bBDAUzLBXt
“At our current pace, we are confident that we will be able to review and make a recommendation to the president on every single drug petition we currently have,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates said. The early releases apply to mostly nonviolent drug offenders who would have received lighter punishments if they committed the same crimes today. The new commutations mean this White House has granted 673 commutations, more than the past 10 presidents combined. Tuesday’s grants follow 214 more earlier this month.
Taylor Lewis: President And Michelle Obama’s Legacy Lives On In October Issue Of ESSENCE
It’s the end of an era. While the Obamas are hoping that their initiatives—My Brother’s Keeper, Let’s Move, Let Girls Learn, to name a few—will live on, the couple hopes to hold onto the memories that they’ve made during their eights years in DC. Some of my fondest memories of the White House are just being with the girls on a summer night and walking the dogs around the South Lawn, talking and listening to them, trying to get Bo to move because sometimes it’s hot.”
“I think when it comes to Black kids, it means something for them to have spent most of their life seeing the family in the White House look like them,” Mrs. Obama said. “It matters. All the future work that Barack talked about, I think over these last few years, we’ve kind of knocked the ceiling of limitation off the roofs of many young kids; imaginations of what’s possible for them. And as a mother, I wouldn’t underestimate how important that is, having that vision that you can really do anything—not because somebody told you, but because you’ve seen and experienced it. I think that will be a lasting impact on our kids.”