What Obama Means to Me This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

February 26, 2009
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Two years ago, Obama meant nothing to me. His name did not ring any bells of hope or change or bring huge traffic to my hometown. However, just a year later, he became the Democratic nominee for president and his name rang the bells of history. Obama meant history was in the making.

Six months ago, Obama meant ­debates at the school lunch table and people selling his campaign buttons for five bucks and the scratched ones for three. Obama was my friend’s Halloween costume, and if a house had a McCain sign, he would take his mask off, get the candy, then say, “Vote for Obama.”

On November 4th, Obama meant campaigning was finally over. His ads would stop. His signs would be taken down. My family watched as the election was called and he won. To think that I thought it was all over that night … I thought his name would fade from the news ­because it would never again hold that suspense it had carried before the election. I was wrong. It only intensified. Every day the news brought something about him: “Today Obama met with President Bush,” “Today he is in town looking at schools for his daughters.”

Obama also meant some unexpected claims-to-fame for my family and friends. He attended the same high school as my stepdad. Apparently everybody called him “Barry” back then. One of my friends goes to the school in D.C. that Malia and Sasha now attend. She said she sees Malia and Sasha sometimes and the Secret Service walks around a lot. “One of the agents looks like a gorilla,” she noted.

Finally, on January 20th, Obama meant a day off from school. Being locals, my mom and I decided we would regret it if we missed such a historic event. So we timed our inauguration outing perfectly. We watched Obama get sworn in on TV. Then we took the Metro, which was practically empty. Once in D.C., we were instantly met with throngs of people. They blanketed the National Mall, the streets, and the Metro stations, most looking overwhelmed or just plain lost.

We walked in front of the Capitol where huge ­jumbotrons showed the Obamas going to a luncheon while we waddled outside in the cold. My mom and I walked between the rows of empty plastic chairs, like a sea of soldiers facing the inauguration platform. Litter tumbled by: newspapers with headlines related to the inauguration, the wrappers from hand warmers, a lonely glove, empty water bottles, and even a blanket from an expensive hotel. The Capitol reflecting pool was frozen, so people were out on it, sliding, dancing, or cautiously toeing the ice. I joined them, starting to feel like I was a part of something.

The crowd was enormous, bigger than any I had ever seen in Washington. They were bundled up, holding flags and wearing Obama pins. We met all sorts of people from almost everywhere. There was a couple all the way from Hawaii, wearing fresh but tired-looking leis and capris with long socks. Some people were dressed in traditional African clothing. We also saw a guy in an Obama superhero suit – a white spandex bodysuit with “Obama” written across the chest and fake muscles poking out everywhere. People had been asking him for pictures all day, he said nonchalantly as he leaned back in his chair at a Japanese restaurant, as if that was the most normal thing. And it was, because on inauguration day, I wasn’t surprised.

My mom and I challenged ourselves to wave to all the media. We waved to CNN. We waved to NBC. We jumped up and down and shouted “OBAMA!” whenever a camera passed. By the time we claimed our spot to watch the parade, I was freezing. The procession ­started at last, and lines of ­soldiers and bands marched past. A big truck inched by with cameramen in the back, aiming their cameras at the cars behind them.

Then a black car rolled by and the crowd ­started screaming … but it turned out to be Secret Service. Finally another appeared and we knew it was him. It was President Barack Obama. There was screaming and camera flashes. There was shoving and craning for a better look. There were squeals and gasps. And at the same time, it felt like slow motion. The car inched past. Even through the tinted windows, you could see our president ­grinning, and he gave us a wave.

After Obama passed, we watched the rest on TV in a restaurant. On the streets, people were selling everything Obama: T-shirts, buttons, key chains, mugs, and pictures of him from every angle (some more flattering than others). Then there were the “Take your picture with Obama” stands where you could stand next to a cardboard cutout.

After the inauguration, Obama represented not ­only an office, but also a person. At first, Obama was just a name. Then he was a face, a slogan, and a voice. Now, he was a person – very human as he gave one of his goofy grins that seem to say, This is all for me? As he entered the presidency, he became one of the unattainables. He is now in a fish bowl of scrutiny and admiration. He’s a celebrity, an influence, but that smile he flashed as his car passed us reminded me that he is still only human.

Humans, while not perfect, are capable of extra­ordinary things. Obama has already brought people together: from Hawaii and Kenya, Democrats and Republicans, blacks and whites, young and old voters, and the many who stood in the cold on January 20. I feel like “Obama” should be added to the dictionary. What other word describes hope, faith, unity, change, expectation, history, and leadership in just three ­syllables?

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 104 comments. Post your own now!

Treefiddy said...
Sept. 27, 2010 at 6:10 am
I think that William F. Buckley Jr. summed it up perfectly when he said, "I would rather be governed by the first two thousand people in the Boston telephone directory than by the two thousand people on the faculty of Harvard University."
Treefiddy said...
Sept. 27, 2010 at 6:07 am

Agnot, when I say "mastermind", I mean that in a self-annointed way. There is a deep belief among those in academia that if we harness all of the greatest academic minds and let them run the economy, everything would turn out just fine. As it turns out, those who believe that they know everything have no problem pushing their will upon people when given the power, and will treat society as a social experiment to reflect their annointed vision. Obama is a community activist with roots in the r... (more »)

clairexaudrey This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 14, 2010 at 12:42 pm


-a man who failed to fix the economy and therefore every child in American already owes thousand in dollars in debt to our country

- trying to blame others for the problem in the gulf because he can't fix it himself..he's the effing president. it doesn't matter who started it, what is he, a little kid just pointing and exclaiming to his mommy "she started it!" let's stop being immature and try to fix the fucking problem.

-a man no one has ever heard of before electi... (more »)

cantabile replied...
Dec. 24, 2010 at 2:47 pm
so agree. He has messed up our economy so badly. I know I will have so much fun being in debt when I'm adult.
AshLynn said...
Jul. 23, 2010 at 4:58 am
I thought that Obama was going to change the world, and make more history than just being the first black president. turns out i was wrong. all he ever changes is his suit. not the world.
KindStrangetr replied...
Oct. 19, 2010 at 11:22 am
Well yeah, because it his first year. Oh and the people he has to get to agree on it arguee so much that getting anything passed would be close to immposible. And as for the economy, he did not break it in the first place, give him time and he can do at least a little of that
Kyle T. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 10, 2010 at 3:53 pm
he didnt have to get anyone to agree on anything up until last week because the dems had both house anddddddddd senate. Because of this, he passed worthless stimulus packages.
Kaileigh918 said...
Jul. 1, 2010 at 2:43 pm
he's saving America, smart one.
Threefiddy replied...
Jul. 15, 2010 at 11:57 pm

40 percent approval rating-

Americans do not want socialism, they don't want their liberties taken away from them, they don't want higher taxes, they do not want their health care system destroyed, they do not want a group of masterminds to run the economy.

AgnotTheOdd replied...
Jul. 22, 2010 at 8:11 pm

I would want a mastermind to run the country...

Funny you don't.

AgnotTheOdd replied...
Jul. 26, 2010 at 11:21 am
kaileigh, you have been posting comments that are just begging to be replied to.  its like telling someone "your mother is a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries" and expecting them to not respond
ChickenLegHouse replied...
Nov. 5, 2012 at 8:52 am
It's compleatly beside the point, but I love that quote.
dogtags said...
Jul. 1, 2010 at 12:50 am
I cannot accept a man as president who works so hard to destroy the country I love. Those who support him have not looked at him logically. They just like him because he is a minority or because he supposedly helps poor people. His beliefs and policies are ruining America.
Kaileigh918 replied...
Jul. 1, 2010 at 2:44 pm
he's saving America, smart one.
Icypyro replied...
Jul. 1, 2010 at 6:08 pm

I think I'll reply to this.

 Saving our Gulf Coast from the oil spill? Nothing's happened.

Saving our economy? It's helped itself up, thank you.

Saving America? Not a chance.

Skatergirl51 replied...
Jul. 23, 2010 at 2:34 pm
he is not saving America. You can not just comment and say he is saving America or he is amazing with facts behind your answer. Everyone says they think he is great, but if you ask them why they say "i dont know, just because." He has not done anything except apoloqize to the muslims for what Bush did. After 9/11 Bush was tough and kept the country free of terrorist attacks. I don't like a lot that Bush has done, but I respect him and thank him for keeping our country safe. Did you see on tv whe... (more »)
Icypyro replied...
Jul. 23, 2010 at 7:07 pm
Finally! Someone with some sense commenting on this article!!
Skatergirl51 replied...
Jul. 23, 2010 at 9:49 pm
Thank you! right back at you!
deJoisey This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 18, 2010 at 8:04 pm
Great essay.  I like Obama, and find the violent resent that some people have for him to be quite disturbing.  I was not a fan of Bush, but I never verbally thrashed him, because he was my president and deserves nothing but the upmost respect from his countrymen.  
faypirate23 said...
May 18, 2010 at 6:16 pm
I LOVE OBAMA i was the only one in my school who liked obama besides three other ppl hes a whole hell of a lot better than bush thats for sure hes my home boy!
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