By Dezimon Alicea
Back in 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama made a visit to Gary, IN. The venue was the Gary Roosevelt High School. Many people did not know much about the senator from Illinois, but they clamored and screamed from their seats, “Yes, we can; yes, we can!”
With excitement, the room erupted. The same can be said today in 2017. Eight years have passed, the venue has changed, but the reaction from the crowd is still the same. Individuals clamored to fill seats as President Barack Obama made his final address to the American people.
“My fellow Americans,” were the first words to project from the Harvard Law graduate. Many times, this phrase was met with opposition, but Tuesday night there was something different in his voice. There was a sense of urgency to unite. Different colors and different creeds from all over the nation gathered in the spirit of oneness.
Obama’s message— much like it was in ’08—petitioned people to hope again. The sea of people stood and listened intently to every word that came from his mouth. Emphasis was made on our veterans, race relations, health care, and unemployment.
At some points, I did not know if I was attending a rock concert or a presidential address. Throughout his speech, the chant of ‘Four more years!’ roared through the crowd, causing Obama to take a brief pause. Those chants which rang louder and louder were expressed by Black and white; Muslim and Asian; gay and straight; Christian and Buddhist—all came together as one to express their support of the first African-American president and his administration.
Hope was the foundation Obama ran on eight years ago, and hope was the theme of the night. Next to me, I could see hope in the eyes of those watching. Some tears filled their eyes and in others a certain level of pessimism was evident. Not really sure what to expect from the new administration coming in the next few weeks, but Obama held his head high and addressed the skepticism of those who are wondering about the future of our nation. That same hope he made others believe in, he stressed is still present; it still resides within each of us.
Thousands packed into the McCormick Place to hear Obama. Celebrities, politicians, supporters, and friends were among those who attended. One specific person Obama acknowledged was his wife, Michelle, who for the past 25 years has supported him and his endeavors.
“Michelle did something special. A new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. You’ve made me proud. You’ve made the country proud.”
At times, the POTUS’ farewell speech reminded me of a Shakespeare play—full of emotion, purpose and driven by passion. He didn’t avoid the tough issues either. Obama faced the critics head-on while reflecting on the work he’d done with his administration.
“The unemployment rate is near a ten-year low. The uninsured rate has never, ever been lower. Health care costs are rising at the slowest rate in 50 years,” said Obama. He pointed out the drastic changes made by his administration without majority support.
A lot has happened in the past eight years. The iPhone has graduated from the 3G series to the 7. Robert Downey, Jr. has reprised the role of Iron Man four times in theaters, and the once mighty dictator, Fidel Castro, has made his transition to the next life. But, one thing remains: Chants of “Yes, we can!” can still be heard. Obama hats and shirts are still being sold on street corners and the spirit of hope is still spreading strong among the American people.
Just like a lot has happened in the past eight years, a lot can happen in the next four to eight years. Before Barack Obama made his final exit from the platform as this nation’s 44th president, he spoke piercing words to the ears of the people who were listening. He reminded us that we should hope, not in a political party, not in a governmental system, but to hope in one another.