In 2008 I was eligible to vote in my first presidential election.
To me, it wasn’t just a big deal because I was a first-time voter, but it was big because I would witness history one way or another – either by seeing a woman be elected as vice-president for the first time in American history or seeing an African-American male be elected as president for the first time in American history. As a Black woman, this was particularly amazing to me because at one time women couldn’t vote and at another time people of color couldn’t vote! Now look at the individuals on the ballots and the individuals that are now able to cast a ballot- we had come a long way!
That year, America was gifted Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America along with his elegant wife, Mrs. Michelle Obama. President Obama would go on to accomplish a lot while in office including the Affordable Care Act which revolutionized healthcare, winning a Nobel Peace Prize, becoming one of the biggest job creating presidents, and much more (all without a major scandal I might add). First Lady Michelle Obama would steal America’s heart by being a champion for a more educated and healthier nation, her remarkable speeches, and being a style icon.
Interestingly enough, these accomplishments are not what first come to mind when I think of the Obamas.
Whether you agree with their politics or not, I believe I speak for a lot of people when I say that Barack and Michelle Obama have simply been the President and First Lady of Pop Culture.
Whether they were slow-jamming the news on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, dancing or doing push-ups with Ellen DeGeneres, singing “Single Ladies” in Carpool Karaoke, or delivering the famous farewell “Obama out” as the POTUS dropped the mic, the Obamas have proven to be pop-culture savvy and relatable. My life has changed because of this iconic couple.
Personally, I have been navigating my way through life and society by myself, but Barack and Michelle have been my indirect mentors… guiding me through my twenties and helping me become a better woman and citizen.
Here are just a few of my takeaways from their journey that I have applied to my own personal journey and how their example can help you in 2017.
1. Keep branding. Eventually the world will know your name.
In January 2007, Barack Obama announced that he would run for president. *Crickets* If we are honest, a lot of us knew little to nothing about this politician. That would change quickly as he brilliantly capitalized on an authentic skill he possessed – being a masterful and transparent communicator. He knows how to work an audience, and that’s what has captivated people around the world.
He would also be the first president to adeptly embrace social media. All of this is how the nation would slowly catch wind of his hype and before we knew it we witnessed the meteoric rise of a relatively unknown Senator from Illinois. His vision wasn’t just to be a great orator; but it was a key element to his brand.
I had to emulate this strategy! I have had signs in my life lead to me be a writer at heart and recently I decided to take advantage of that and create content that will build an audience. I plan to spread my words across social media platforms. The vision isn’t just to be a good writer, but writing will play its part in the world seeing my name.
2. Girl power!
President Obama is a self-proclaimed feminist. He wrote an essay that tore into the ridiculous double standards that women face. My favorite line from the essay was “We need to keep changing the attitude that teaches men to feel threatened by the presence and success of women.”
As a woman who works in a male dominated industry, I know, all too well, about the fraction of men who are instantly intimidated by what a woman brings to the table. It is refreshing to know that the Leader of the Free World recognized this hindrance and became a voice for females. This keeps me hopeful that one day there will be an elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.
Of course, The President wasn’t the only resident in the White House that championed for gender equality and inspired women. Mrs. Obama once said “Like I tell my daughters, women and girls can do whatever they want. There is no limit to what we as women can accomplish.” It’s like she dared me to buy in to that idea… not to mention she is living proof of the words. Because of her reminders and her unmatched example, I boldly face society and go after everything I am told I cannot do because I am Black and a woman.
The FLOTUS made me and countless other women around the world feel like we mattered and she made us feel like we mattered to her. As a result, she has inspired me to join in on the work of women empowerment.
3. Brush the haters off.
No other president and first lady have faced more unnecessary criticism and attacks than the Obamas. Yet, both handled these tests calmly and with poise, while never backing down.
As a sensitive and emotional person, I grew accustomed to verbally retaliating if someone hurt or misunderstood me. After I watched the Obamas in office, I realized that I have never been placed under scrutiny of that magnitude; so why is it the end of the world when I am wronged? I knew I needed to heed the example they were setting for all Americans.
This doesn’t mean that criticism is excusable nor does it mean that it hurts any less when facing this challenge. Life is going to throw its fair share of haters your way. But take it from me… my personal life has been a lot better since I have adopted the First Lady’s motto: “When they go low, we go high.” Now when I encounter any negativity, I just do what President Obama taught me when responding to the attacks thrown his way in the 2008 Democratic primaries — (brush, brush motion) get that dirt off my shoulders!
4. Be audacious and have hope.
When Barack Obama was a senator, he wrote a book entitled “The Audacity of Hope”. It was a phrase from his 2004 Democratic Convention keynote address — the first real glimpse of the rockstar speechmaker. But this phrase has taken on a whole new meaning for me. I have watched President Obama for eight years and one thing that I have learned is that I give too much power away to the professional politicians and it’s time to get involved in issues that I am passionate about. Before he took office, I just wanted a good job with good benefits. Today, I aspire to be a playmaker for our economy as an entrepreneur.
The Obamas have shined the light to help us see that young people “got next” and I am very optimistic about that. I know what some of you are thinking: there’s still more work to be done. You are right, and I am hopeful for a better tomorrow for America. And if you ask me if I think that we can ALL come together and play our part in that better “tomorrow”, my answer is: “Yes, we can!”.
The opinions expressed here by PRSUIT.com contributors are their own, not those of PRSUIT.com.
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