The year Obama was elected, the wall in my history teacher’s classroom read
DISSENT IS THE HIGHEST FORM OF PATRIOTISM
and for homework we read Howard Zinn and The History of Women in the United States
and we voted for Obama in our mock election and shouted his name at the top of our lungs at the end of the presidents song long before he was elected.
Barack Obama took office when I was sixteen. I tacked the front page of The Press Democrat with his inauguration photo on my wall.
“We have chosen hope over fear.”
I realized today how crucial those two statements were and continue to be in the decisions that I have made and will make. I realized today how crucial it was to watch the Obamas as I grew up, and how important it was that he was elected when I was sixteen. Just old enough to give a shit. Just old enough to know how important this was going to be. Sixteen year-old me, armed with patriotic dissent and a shit ton of hope, somehow became twenty-four year-old me, swinging condoms full of water and shouting from the rooftops about the importance of consent. I can honestly say that none of that would have happened if it hadn’t been for the culture of courage set forth by the Obamas. My president made me brave.
I feel so incredibly lucky to have grown up with the Obamas. To have spent my high school career in a place where we filled classrooms with the Grateful Dead on vinyl and posters of MLK and Harvey Milk and Gloria Steinem; my college years surrounded by advocates for first-generation college students, consent gurus and defenders of democracy. To now be working in a place where I can encourage youth across an entire nation to speak out for gender equality. To see the smoke before the fire.
So today, well, it’s already inauguration day here, so I guess yesterday, I thought about all those sixteen year olds who are just old enough to give a shit, sitting in their history classrooms, wondering what this means for their futures. To the sixteen year olds who will watch the inauguration in class and be scared rather than hopeful, please don’t forget
Dissent is the highest form of patriotism
So thanks, Obama, for eight years of hope, for giving me a space to be brave.
Oh and thanks, Mr. Horner, for putting a poster on your wall that maybe was only there to cover up a hole or a stain but is regardless v important.
I have never been good at conclusions in writing so I’m just gonna leave this here.