Thanks, Obama (For Real)

The first leader to ever grab my attention is on his way out. So a bit of thanks is in order.

Look, I think we can all pretty much agree that the 2016 American election is like a dumpster fire where the dumpster is also made of fire and things keep catching fire. We just sit here in Canada, eating our better bacon and hoping that the fire doesn’t spread too far.

So instead of talking about that and my fears of this incoming hurricane on Tuesday, I’ll instead talk about the guy on his way out and why he’ll always be one of my favourites.

Freeze frame. “Evan, I don’t believe Obama has been that great. He hasn’t done X, missed out on Y, and don’t even get me started on Z.”

That’s cool. That’s your opinion, and that’s cool! For me, Obama is and always will be more than the results of his presidency.

For me, he’s the first public leader that I was ever really invested in. The eleventh grade was when politics really stuck for me, and Canadian politics were the tame northern neighbour of whatever was happening south of us. The hilarious-in-the-wrong-way George Bush was on his way out and I was curious as to who my parents would make fun of next. Then I heard Obama speak.

Hearing this man speak of certain values to hold dear like hope and integrity struck a nerve. This man had poise, a natural charisma one can only dream of in a leader, and spoke with honesty and intensity. So, I tracked his campaign.

I became an election junkie. The TV at home went from watching sports highlights to coverage of the democratic primaries. A CNN time limit had to be instituted in my house. I stayed up, alone in my basement, to watch his historic election and skipped school to see his inauguration. He became someone I looked to as an example of how to be a leader while I was trying to become a better one.

As I got older, he became someone I looked to as an example for lots of other things. I saw him and Michelle as relationship goals long before that phrase peppered our Instagram feeds. He’s a man who continues to exude poise through any attack on him, and managed to raise two wonderful kids.*

*I assume they’re wonderful, I haven’t met them. They seem super cool though, and if they’re reading this let’s be friends.

White House photographer Pete Souza shared some of his favourite shots of Obama, which spurred this train of thought from me. They depict a caring father and husband, quick with a joke and also a man who has endured serious challenges through eight years. I’ve added them to the end of this post.

So thanks, Obama. No really, thanks. For inspiring me to be a leader. For giving me a goal to shoot for in terms of being a family man. And for just being so cool. Whoever gets elected on Tuesday, I¬†know it won’t be the same.

Photos courtesy Pete Souza, White House

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