Where has the time gone? Eight years have gone by much too soon. As the days pass, the more I find myself filled with regret that time moved so fast.
It’s easy to remember “The Tears.” The first time they visited me was 11 p.m. on 11/04/08. It’s easy to remember the exact time, because that was the time that the polls closed in the West and political announcers felt free to deliver the great historic news. I vividly remember the announcer saying, “We’re free now to announce that Barack Obama has won 270 electoral votes and has been declared the 44th president of the United States.” I’d never felt that type of emotion before.
I watched many celebratory demonstrations of euphoria broadcast on television from locations in every corner of the nation. The celebration in Chicago’s Grant Park dwarfed those in every other city. Chicago’s own Barack Obama had just been elected president of the United States, and it was Chicago’s turn to “represent.”
Full of indescribable joy, I watched as the Obamas appeared on stage. The president-elect began thanking those who supported him and reassuring those who didn’t that they all would be recipients of the hope and change on which he’d campaigned.
Then “The Tears” came again. I didn’t invite them, but they came anyway. They came because in the state of my raw emotions I juxtaposed the image of the New First Family against the memories of all of the struggles that preceded their election. In my joy of the moment, I remembered Dr. King, Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, Malcolm X, Ida B.Wells, Denmark Vesey, Crispus Attucks, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, etc. I thought of the sacrifices of Black vets who fought and died in every war this nation waged from the Revolution to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I remember smiling as, through my tears, I saw Rev. Jesse Jackson’s cheeks wet with tears and the hundreds of others who shared our emotions and tears. With immeasurable joy and complete sadness, I reflected on those who went to their graves hoping for a day like that or doubts that one would ever come. For the remainder of that night and the next day “The Tears” were my companion, a fitting escort for my emotions and me. Like all uninvited guests, they eventually left.
They came again on 1/20/09 and again on 1/21/13. These visits were more along the order of Tears of Joy. “The Tears” that came in 2013 served to confirm the confidence and trust that “my president” had earned from his fellow citizens.
On the evening of 1/10/17, I watched as my president gave his farewell address. “The Tears” came once more to cloud my vision of the television screen. They didn’t prevent me from hearing the message and resolve of President Obama to continue to influence the forward progress of our nation. As he enumerated the achievements of his administration, I more clearly understood the personal sacrifice and the depth of his efforts to accomplish what he had.
“The Tears” didn’t prevent the pride I felt for my president who reset the standard for civil discourse and model behavior in his administration. Neither he nor any member of his family engaged in conduct that would discredit the office or the nation. Beyond stewards of the national interests, Michelle and he were the exemplary couple and parents.
I know that another visit by “The Tears” is imminent. On 1/20/17, as we say farewell to one of the greatest presidents on record, “The Tears” will not blind me from continuing the work of preserving the Obama legacy. As he said in his farewell, our efforts to continue the work he began now rests in our individual effort and commitment. YES, WE CAN!
(Dr. E. Faye Williams is President of the National Congress of Black Women, 202/678-6788 www.nationalcongressbw.org).