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A Toast to President Obama on his Final Birthday in Office

By The Pajiba Staff | Politics | August 4, 2016 | Comments ()

By The Pajiba Staff | Politics | August 4, 2016 |






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Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th president of the United States of America, is 55 today. It’s his last birthday while in office, so we decided a toast was in order.

You don’t have to agree with everything — or anything — he says or does to love him, or even appreciate him. You do have to recognize just what his presidency means, and represents, to so many.

We’ve never before had a president like him, and at times it’s hard to imagine we’ll have one again. But here’s to the hope that we will.

Here’s to Obama. Happy Birthday.

——

I was there on the Old State Capitol lawn in Springfield, Ill., when Barack Obama first announced he was running for President of the United States. Springfield is my hometown, where I grew up and lived until college. I’ve eaten countless blackened salmon salads at Bentoh’s, Obama’s self-proclaimed Springfield favorite. I’ve walked the same streets he has. Streets I didn’t know were particularly special because like everyone else who grew up in Springfield, all I wanted was to get out of Springfield. When you grow up knowing you’re the Land of Lincoln, able to give full historical tours by age 8, history feels distant by its nearness. I knew Abraham Lincoln was important and wonderful and how much he mattered, but I couldn’t connect with this history. Not yet. Not until another amazing president made me feel connected with his own story.

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I was there in Grant Park the night Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election. Chicago was my home now, and his home too. Again I walked the same streets as he had and this place felt important to me. This place was my connection, and he connected me to this place and to both my homes.

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Through President Barack Obama, history became real to me. What had previously been a story I’d long heard, a series of places and placemats and commemorative mugs and tourists, was now real. Because I was seeing it happen. I was there.

President Obama will always matter to me. I’ve lived in his story. I’ve seen the lives he changed, I’ve seen the world he changed. History is in our blood now, made real by this incredible, wonderful man.

Thank you for letting us be there. Thank you for letting us be part of it. — Courtney Enlow

——

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Sir, it’s weird to put it this way, but it’s an honor to have had you as our President. You haven’t been perfect, because none of us are. But you took a hard job from a man who was very bad at it, and you made things better. I hope your next phase continues to keep you in our lives and contributing to this country. We’ll all be the better for it. Happy Birthday. — Seth Freilich

——

June 26, 2015 — I sat at my desk at work, not working, all day, engrossed in the news that marriage equality would now be the law of the land thanks to Obergefell v. Hodges. This was just one day after the Supreme Court upheld a key part of Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and nine days after the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in which nine people were slaughtered.

What a week — what a microcosm of the highs and lows of American society. That Friday afternoon, after weeping with joy at the court ruling, I found myself crying again as I watched a live stream on my phone of the funeral for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of the Charleston nine. Obama delivered the eulogy for the slain state representative, and I listened to the president’s moving words, in awe of his power and poise.

Here was our first Black president, eulogizing a man who was murdered for being Black, and again pleading with everyone to tap into their “reservoir of goodness” and treat each other with dignity. And then, he began to sing: “Amazing grace — how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see.” Such beauty and poignancy — I remember thinking, I will never forget this moment, this day.

On Saturday, I got my first tattoo: A pair of glasses, on the inside of my wrist. I’d wanted something to memorialize a friend I had lost that March to AIDS, a friend who was largely rejected by much of his family for being gay. A friend without insurance who couldn’t afford the treatment he needed to prolong his life. A friend I so desperately wanted to celebrate with that week. He was 30. He loved “Harry Potter,” as do I. The glasses are modeled after Harry’s, and every day they remind me to be brave, and to speak up, and to fight for justice.

I was blind, but now I see. — Sarah Carlson

——

I feel like, even if the Obama administration was halted at so many turns by an obstructionist Congress, it will always remain one of the most important presidencies in history. There are innumerable reasons - it felt like a true return to statesmanship, thanks to his very real gift for public speaking, humanity, and honesty. Losing the Obamas after falling so headily in love with them these past years truly will be hard. What will I miss? I’ll miss speeches like his 2008 “More Perfect Union” speech, a heartfelt, breathtakingly honest speech about race the likes of which we’ve never seen.

I’ll miss his gift for humor and the genuine sense of joy that he gave us:

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And lastly, I’ll miss that voice. Take us out, B-Rock:

— TK

——

It’s not that I don’t have all the same sincere, thoughtful reflections on Obama that the rest of y’all have, I do. I remember working as a substitute teacher in Ohio the morning after his election in 2008, I remember sitting in the classroom during my free period re-watching his acceptance speech. I remember all day wanting to shout at the kids “HOW ARE YOU NOT ALL JUST TALKING ABOUT THIS, YOU ARE LIVING HISTORY.” but, you know, they had assignments to work on. I’m in for all that.

But what I’m gonna miss most about President Obama, is the Obama we’ve seen these last couple of years, the second term Obama who one day just woke up and decided he DGAF anymore. It was like he remembered the Barack Obama who campaigned in 2008, who spoke at the DNC in 2004. He rolled up his sleeves and got to the business of getting shit done. Suddenly he channeled his inner Daveed Diggs:

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So much of the dissatisfaction of his first term (in which, let’s not forget, he fucking passed an historic healthcare reform like a BOSS) stemmed from his insistence on trying to get support from across an aisle that made it their mandate not to do that. He hit road block after road block and kept trying, which did mean a harder time getting stuff done that he wanted, which means sad voters. But we stuck with him anyway and it was worth it.

Second term Obama has thrown more shade, has dropped more mics, has shaken up the role of the President and dragged it into the future more than perhaps any other President. Well, definitely on the mic drops since that wasn’t a thing in Lincoln’s time. Historically, Franklin D. Roosevelt could be considered the “radio” President, with his Fireside Chats with the nation. If I had to name a “television” President, it’d probably be Reagan. But Barry O? He’s the “internet” President. He’s got memes (see above, hi Kristy!). He’s been on podcasts. He owns a fucking selfie stick!

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I’ve heard assholes critics try to spin this as a lack of dignity for the office, but Obama ain’t got time for that noise. He’s doing what he can to reach a generation that needs desperately to be engaged in the political process. He’s going to where the people are, striking from the avenues that we pay attention to. And he’s doing it well. I love Hillary Clinton and I’m excited to vote for her, but I know she’s gonna approach the presidency with a bit more stuffiness and seriousness, she’s a policy nerd after all. But Obama? He’s a “the people” nerd.

OhAndThatThingWhereHeOpenlySupportedGayMarriageWhileInOfficeandHasATransStafferAndHasTreatedTransPeopleWithDignityAndRespectKthanxBai

— Riley Silverman

——

There have been 18 mass murder incidents under the Obama Administration. I’m not going to miss those, because they’re not likely to go away anytime soon. What I will miss, however, is the comfort and the barely contained rage President Obama has offered this country after tragedy. I will never understand how he manages it, but he’s always been able to provide perspective, ignite our passions without inflaming our fears, and keep a level head when ours are lolling around on a swivel. It’s the barely contained anger that I am in awe of the most, because day after day, shooting after shooting, and tragedy after tragedy, President Obama has continued to fight a battle with the NRA that he knows he has no chance of winning without blowing his stack. The amount of composure that takes is staggering. Obama redirects that anger into compassion and humanity, which are far more powerful forces. Indeed, there’s only so much one man can do as a President, but Obama’s strength somehow inspires hope in the face of futility. — Dustin Rowles


——

There are so many great things that have come from the Obama Administration, like pulling us out of a recession, achieving marriage equality, and instituting the Affordable Healthcare Act. But today, I’d like to take a moment to say, “Thanks, Obama,” for gifs for every internetting occasion.

For when you flip a meme:

For when someone’s pushing it:

For when it ain’t no thing:

For when you need to peel out of comments:

For when the rhythm gets you:

For when your whole crew is feeling it:

For when you’re on top of the world:



For when you not only shut down a rival, but shamed them so hard their momma is blushing:

For when you run into a Bernie-or-Buster:

For when the Republicans are washed away in the shit storm they manifested:

And of course, the most epic of mic drops:

Thanks, Obama. Seriously. — Kristy Puchko

—-

P.S. You’ll always be our favorite “couch commander.” And please never stop saying “Fuck you, Chuck Todd.”


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