#ThanksObama. I have never been sad about the end of a U.S. presidential era until now that President Barack Obama’s second and final term has ended. Oh, how I already miss the classy Barack and Michelle Obama. My unhappiness has nothing to do with incoming president Donald Trump and the divisiveness and uncertainty his win has caused around the country and the globe. I truly didn’t want the Obamas to go because I see me when I look at them.
Having them in the White House was liking having a childhood friend live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Michelle is 14 months younger than me and Barack 15 months older. Their values are my values. Their concerns are my concerns. Their history is my history. Their music is my music. Their skin tone is my skin tone. Well, almost.
I still remember the joy President Obama’s win brought me on Nov. 4, 2008. I sat in my apartment in Harlem and watched the election results on television. As it became clear that Barack was going to win, the streets of Harlem bubbled with excitement. I could hear the residents celebrating outside. I got caught up in the revelry and rushed outside to join in. I had no idea where I was going to go but knew I didn’t want to be alone with just my dog Lucy during such an important time in U.S. history.
The perfect place in Harlem to share my exuberance was Londel’s, a supper club about a five-minute walk from my apartment. When I arrived, I was glad to see friends, New York Times sports columnist Bill Rhoden and his wife, Sharon Lopez, there as well. We hugged, and I ordered champagne. I can’t remember if Londel’s had run out of either chilled champagne, champagne in general or champagne flutes, but I do recall that something I wanted wasn’t available. I wondered aloud why the restaurant wasn’t better prepared as I accepted the next best thing. But nothing could dampen my spirits on that night as I stood with other African-Americans, our eyes glued to the television sets, and watched history take place as newscasters called the election.
Of course I was in D.C. for his inauguration in 2009. On assignment for USA Today, I had the opportunity to attend festivities and interview celebrities in D.C. for the historical occasion. I had just started this personal blog the month prior and cranked out nine blog posts during those few memorable days.
Fast toward to today, and I am at times still amazed that America elected an African-American president. This country has taken such a huge step backwards in terms of race relations during the last eight years. If race relations couldn’t improve with Barack in office, I shudder to think how much we may continue going in reverse under the new administration.
Don’t leave Barry! I know I’m not alone when I write that I wish there was a way the Obamas could stay another four years. If Michael Bloomberg could push through controversial legislation that allowed for him to serve a third term as mayor of New York City, then certainly the Obama folks could have done the same. Right? I know I need a reality check. We, I, all of us have to say goodbye to the Obamas, as sad as it is.
Will America ever have another president who is so cool and so real? When he broke out singing “Amazing Grace” at the end of his eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a black pastor who was killed with eight others during Bible study in a Charleston, S.C., church, I beamed and cried. President Bill Clinton may have wowed us with his saxophone skills, but I connected with Barack’s singing because it was so fun to see the kick he got out of singing the same music I enjoy.
Will a FLOTUS ever make me as proud as Michelle has made me over these past eight years? Watching the former First Lady blossom into the powerful and passionate speaker she has become has been one of the highlights of President Obama’s run. A few times, I’ve quoted Michelle when friends have been so upset with someone that they want to strike back. “When they go low, you go high,” I tell them. And it’s worked every time. Michelle is so fashionable and dressed in the same feminine style I would have if I was in her shoes. She made flaunting arms en vogue.
As much as I am in favor of interracial dating, I can’t help but think how beautiful black-on-black love is when I see the Obamas looking at each other so lovingly as they often do. I nearly got emotional last night when I did a Google search on photos of them and looked at images from when they were dating up until now. True love. Two beautiful daughters. I imagine Michelle and Barack, like any couple, have their fights, but I could never imagine it.
In Obama’s eight years in office, I’m quite surprised that I never met either Michelle or President Obama. The closest I got was posing next to a cardboard figure of him at the Lincoln Memorial during a mega-concert two days for his first inauguration in 2009. During a trip to D.C. several years later, I stood in front of the White House with my pooch Lucy and asked a guard if my dog might have a playdate with Bo and Sunny. I might as well as asked the guard if I could have dinner with the Obamas that night. It wasn’t going to happen.
In April 2014, while at National Geographic’s headquarters in D.C., I autographed and Lucy pawtographed a copy of my Nat Geo book, The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel, for the First Family. And the book was delivered to the White House.
And the next month came the acknowledgment that they had received the book.
But the Obamas never requested to meet the author in person to talk pets with me. To tell you the truth, I am so well-connected that I’m still shocked I was never invited to the White House during their eight years as residents. I could have gone through my Congressmen to get the White House tour available to John Q. Public, but I never cared to go inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue unless I was going to meet the Obamas. Now I will never have that opportunity.
But wait, maybe Michelle Obama will discover her true calling and become the first female president of the United States. One can always hope…