“The Audacity of Hope”
Sister Nadia El-Din Smith 2016/1437
We, the class of 2016, were just preparing to enter the 1st grade in the summer of 2004, when the name Barack Hussein Obama came into our environment. A brash, young, African- American, newly elected Senator from Illinois to the United States Congress, was asked to give the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, and he “nailed it.”
Who was this young man, who stole the show and captivated the American public to such an extent that 4 years later we would be declaring him President and re-electing him for a 2nd term. Eight years as President, and four years before that as the prime candidate, Barack Obama is us. We grew up with him. From the 1st to the 12th grade, he, his wife, and his daughters have been our only reality relating to the White House and Presidential perceptions. To most of America and the world, he was the first, but to us he was and is the only. Not only was he our first and only but she was as well.
Michelle Obama, mother of two, the 44th first lady of the United States, lawyer, community activist and social rights advocate. She is and forever will be a mother figure for us of this generation. She is a star in her own right and she defines herself rather than being defined by her president husband. Sasha and especially Malia, who is our exact same age, they too are their father’s hope for the future just as we are.
In describing himself at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in his “A More Perfect Union” speech he said, “I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slave owners- an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.
Imam Mohammed who our school is named after, two months before his passing in 2008 he said, “Some months or year ago, I said, "Goodness is on the rise." Now look at the proof: Barack Obama. Goodness is on the rise. Here is a man who made himself known about one year ago at the Democratic Convention. They are so impressed with him, because he is so clean and straight. Look where he is now.
If he loses everything from here on and gets no more support, and someone else gets in the White House, what he has done to sensitize African Americans, Hispanics, poor Whites, rich people, everybody high and low, cannot be erased or removed. Allah has enthused into the human world a power pack of energy for renewing this whole planet.
He said, Whether you want it or not, you are going to get better because of the rise of Barack Obama. Whether you want it or not, you are going to become a better human being. Nobody will have to force you. You are going to become that just because of your being in touch as a human being with feelings. You have already been touched by him, and that is going to grow and grow.
As Imam Mohammed said “goodness is on the rise”, the goodness of his efforts were evident and we did grow to love our Presidential candidate and elected him proudly. Similarly, Obama could see the “goodness on the rise” as well with the hope of the future for America. In his Election Night Victory Speech in 2008 he said “We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America open to the dreams of an immigrant's daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag, to the young boy on the south side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the nearest street corner, to the furniture worker's child in North Carolina who wants to become a doctor or a scientist, an engineer or an entrepreneur, a diplomat or even a president. That's the future we hope for.
In Obama’s Inaugural Address he relates his hope for the nation simply, he says, “In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.
It hasn’t been easy being President, being black and having his unusual background and name—even some things, you will hear, we disagreed with but without a doubt, President Barack Obama has been a momentous influence in our young lives and helped to give each of us the hope we need to have success.
My classmates will reflect on his accomplishments, aspirations, and his challenges, and the influences and realities that shaped and nurtured us during the Obama years that gave us and so many like us the courage to dream and the Audacity to Hope.