Thanks, Obama

The piece below was written by Oliver Hidalgo-Wohlleben, a proud Cedar Rapids native, a recent University of Iowa graduate, and OFA and HFA alum. He was the 2016 Ladis Kristof Memorial Fellow where he conducted research on gun violence as a human rights crisis with The New York Times editorialist Nick Kristof as an advisor. He’s now part of a team at SOZE, working to tackle the challenges of tomorrow through art, politics, and advocacy.

In just a short few days we’ll be saying farewell to your historic presidency that forever changed  the political landscape of our ever changing nation. As it comes to an end, I can’t help but reflect on the near decade-long journey since you announced your candidacy.


The election of a young, mixed-race Senator from the Midwest with a self-described funny name proved that there was a space in politics for me. I’m no stranger to people of color making positive impacts in our community, by any means, but to have someone do it at the highest level of government showed that this was possible for the next generation of young activists.


On the same week that we remember Martin Luther King, Jr., I can’t help but think of those who fought so hard for a seat at the table. As you vacate your seat at the head of the table for the President-Elect to fill, know that we’ll continue to fight for the opportunity for all people to hold the immense responsibility of the Presidency. After all, you trained an army of volunteers and inspired generations to believe that democracy is not a spectator sport.


Your candidacy politicized so many of my friends and family. And while the recent election of our next president has woken many up to the societal challenges that we face today for the opposite reason, I can’t help but admire the spirit of your candidacy.


Regardless of nuanced policy disagreements, the relentless optimism and agency, a simple mantra of, “Yes we can”, instilled a sense of belief in our ability to make change that no one can take away. In 2008 I went to the caucuses as a fourteen year old, and while I was too young to vote, I saw my mother and grandparents voice their support for Barack Obama. Four years later, after hundreds of hours making calls and knocking doors, I cast my first vote to reelect the first African-American president of our nation.


On the eve of this election, you told a weary nation that regardless of the outcome, the sun would rise again. After a grueling month of organizing in South Florida and a heartbreaking loss that caused a sleepless night, I watched the sunrise upon the beach as the waves beat back and forth, carrying any remnants of cynicism into the abyss.


It didn’t take long for me to realize that our work was not finished; rather, it had just begun.


So as we say goodbye to your presidency of the past 8 years and reflect upon the journey that began a decade ago in my home state of Iowa, I thank you for your service to our nation and I promise to continue the fight.


Yes we can. Yes we did. Yes we can, again.

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