By the time you read this article, Barack Hussein Obama will no longer be the President of the United States.
I cannot underscore the personal respect I have for this human being but perhaps you can catch a glimpse because my son was born four days after the US presidential election in 2008 and his name is Kofi Obama Straughn.
The last eight years have been extraordinary and certainly Mr Obama’s ability to escape relatively unscathed is testament to his greatness. He certainly leaves the office and his country in a
much better position than when he was elected.
Despite the best efforts of those who deliberately and sometimes disrespectfully stood in his way, Mr Obama’s supporters can feel a sense of pride that his policies have transformed America and maybe perhaps the world in a largely net positive way.
It is clear to me that people never fully acknowledge those that work in their interest. Many of his most vociferous demonizers were the largest beneficiaries of his policies, especially the Obamacare. For me, it is quite astounding that such persons would in turn reject the very thing they have benefited from only because it also benefited minority groups.
That ability to vote not only against your own self-interest, but your family and that of the community is an eye opener. I don’t think I could pretend to understand how Mr Obama has not lost his cool persona through it all. I feel the personal hurt for him that people rejected the only real help they have had from that system in more than a generation.
I have been and remain truly inspired by President Obama, who to me wasn’t just the President of the United States, he was President of the World. I have not agreed with everything he has done in the last eight years, but I fundamentally believe that the world saw the best in leadership ever exhibited.
Like me, Mr Obama sees people. Ordinary people. Like me to his core, he is a decent man despite carrying the label politician and everything he has done during his presidency has consistently demonstrated those character traits.
2016 will go down in history as a year never to be forgotten for several reasons and while the election result has left respectable people shaken to our core, it is the outright contempt of the Republican-led US Senate for Mr Obama’s authority to appoint Supreme Court justices that, in my mind, was the most heinous action since the death of Justice Scalia in February 2016.
While most of the post-election debate has centred on alleged Russian hacking and the role it might have played in the election result, my sense is that when institutions within your own government usurp the authority of your own Constitution, then it is an open invitation for others to have a field day. Americans have obsessed on this latest distraction without realizing the democracy they so cherish has started to erode from within.
President Obama is most certainly not the cause of the rot but has been used as the catalyst for the erosion of democratic values. That aside, his leadership has been a source of inspiration for a generation and I will try by utmost to inspire a new generation of Barbadians to take up the cause of public service.
I am heartened that Mr Obama will be in Washington DC for another two years and hope that at some point during that time to have the very good fortune of meeting
him in person. That would indeed be an honour.
For the time being, I wish him and his family all the very best as they write the next chapter. It has been an honour simply seeing your journey.
(Ryan Straughn is an UWI Cave Hill and Central Bank of Barbados trained economist and endorsed Barbados Labour Party (BLP) candidate for Christ Church East Central at the next general election. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)