Was a time, I decorated walls with the faces of people I didn’t know: Donny Osmond, James Taylor, probably U2 at some point, although I was an adult by then, even if a young one, and adults don’t generally mount posters of Famous People around their homes.
Which is likely why I hesitated to put up that poster of President Obama.
It arrived in the mail one day, unbidden, no doubt because I’ve tossed the campaign a few shekels now and then. It’s about 11 x 17 inches or so; across the top it reads CHANGE IS, then there’s an artsy head shot of the President, and then a list:
1/29/2009 EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK 3/30/2009 SAVING THE US AUTO INDUSTRY 5/22/2009 CREDIT CARD REFORM 10/28/2009 HATE CRIMES PREVENTION ACT 3/23/2010 AFFORDABLE CARE ACT 3/30/2010 STUDENT LOAN REFORM 7/21/2010 WALL STREET REFORM 12/17/2010 MIDDLE-CLASS TAX CUTS 12/22/2010 REPEAL OF “DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL” 7/29/2011 RAISING FUEL EFFICIENCY STANDARDS 12/18/2011 ENDING THE WAR IN IRAQ
I opened it up, unfolded it, looked at it for awhile. Walked around the house with it. Then I pulled out the tape and hung it in my kitchen.
Now, whenever I walk past the President’s face, I imagine I feel a bit like a Catholic in the 1960s, those folks who hung a picture of President Kennedy next to the Pope. Because this President? He’s one of my own. I like having him in the heart of my family’s home.
And that’s the thing, really. For the first time in my life — a life lived across two continents and two political systems — the person leading my country and representing it to the world is one of my own.
I’m not black, or bi-racial. I’m not from Hawaii. I’ve never been to Indonesia. My grandparents don’t hail from Kansas or Kenya. I did attend the University of Chicago (while Mr. Obama was teaching there, no less), but not Harvard. I’m not a lawyer. And possibly more to the point — I do disagree with this President now and then. I’ve even yelled at the radio a time or two.
And yet, he’s one of my own. His respect for intelligent inquiry, for individuals and peoples, for gentle humor and not backing down; the willingness he’s shown to take bold action and also to admit error; and his constant, consistent refusal to get involved in the mind games that literally millions of people are trying to play with him — these all reflect a manner that I not only want to see in my President, but am hoping to teach my children. Barack Obama represents what I want my country to be.
We don’t always have to agree to be on the same page; I don’t have to be in someone’s thrall to be glad he’s in my life. In my home. On my kitchen wall.
It makes me proud to see the President there. It makes me think that all these things that I’ve believed in my whole life — things like equal pay for equal work, and protecting our environment, and granting human dignity across the board — have a real chance out there in the world. Like maybe Americans really can perfect the union.
I imagine that I’ll continue to disagree with President Obama from time to time, and maybe yell at the radio another time or two. I figure he can take it — he is in politics, after all.
But I also imagine that come November, after I’ve volunteered for another Obama campaign and he’s been re-elected (please God and Get Out The Vote!), I will once again turn all weepy. Because human fallibility aside, I am prouder than I can say to have him in the Oval Office.
I never thought one of my own would make it.