When President Obama won the presidency, I worked as a substitute teacher. The district anticipated a flood of teachers calling in so they asked the substitute teachers to meet at the district office and wait in a room for our assignment. The pre-inauguration ceremonies played on a small TV with about 50 subs in one room. I sat and watched for a short time until the district sent me to an elementary school to cover a forth grade class.
“Hi! I’m here to sub for today,” I said while placing my time sheet on the front counter.
“Oh, um.” The office manager paused and leaned forward extending herself over the counter to see my name badge and time sheet. “Uh-um, Mr. Carter,” she continued, “we have no need for subs at the moment. But, since we called you out but there is no need you can go home. Your day is done. Go home.” She lean in a bit closer over the counter, signed my time, tapped me with a motherly tap on my arm, then exhaled, “We have a black president, honey, it’s a holiday. Go home, honey.” I was not used to such informal exchanges with office managers, but that day was different among many black people even among non-black people. Then she belted out a laugh from her bowels channeling her ancestors.
I don’t recall saying anything but,“Thank you. If you ever have any need for a sub in the future I will be available. Happy holiday!” I smiled, grabbed my time sheet, and left the building feeling light. Feeling as if the breeze of progress had just blown in.
I rushed to my car. Turn the radio on. I paused and let the office manager’s words sink in. We have a black president I thought. Tears from the Nile rolled down my quivering cheeks. I listened to all the buzz surrounding the inauguration of United States of America’s first black president — the first black president. A country where blackness has been demonize since its inception, now had the highest office in the land occupied by a black man.
I rushed home. Turned on the television. And watched as much of the festivities surrounding the inauguration of United States of America’s first black president as I could.
Many years after his presidency, he wrote a memoir putting into the written record his time as United States of America’s first black president.
In the book, a gift from my in-laws, Obama lyrically reminds leaders to learn, shape a vision based on robust ideals, plan, execute, reflect, then do it again. This process takes sweat, but the strength of our ideals helps to live with chin up, head high, and shoulders back.
The most striking thing about his book is his ability to shape a compelling vision. Not everyone sees his vision as compelling but, at minimum, the way he says his vision sure is compelling. He held this robust vision despite others calling him an out of touch dreamer. He had the audacity to hope.
Regardless of what you think about Obama‘s policy and presidency, the person Obama has characteristics and prose worth imitating and reading, albeit he is imperfect like us all an a bit wordy. His book is long but worthy of a read.