I had lunch yesterday (Thursday before the inauguration) with a colleague and mentor. In the midst of catching up and asking how her teenage daughters are doing, a story was recounted that on Christmas my colleague's mother (and daughters' grandmother) asked the oldest daughter (15 years old) how she was feeling about the future. And her response even at the tender age of 15 directly and indirectly sum up the thoughts of many right now, "I am trying to just make it through the next 4 years".
As I watched the live footage of President Obama leaving the Oval Office for the last time on CNN with Uncle Joe (yes we millennials or at least among my network think of Vice President Biden as our amazing quirky uncle) and Dr. Biden in tow, I honestly wanted to cry with a mix of feelings. I am sure this sentiment most likely reflects the thoughts and feelings of many today.
But the real question is at the crux of my colleague's 15 year old daughter's statement, "how do WE make it through the next 4 years?"
This in all honesty is a difficult question to answer because I think no one not even newly elected President Trump thought would ever have to be truly asked. And possibly my mindset and way of navigating my emotional feelings and thoughts, and even but more practically my actions future and present now that Donald Trump has taken the oath of office will change, but these are my present thoughts on President Donald Trump taking office today.
Let me first congratulate President Trump, yes I said congratulate and anyone can add my name to the #UncleTom lists out there if they want, but the man won. Despite the inflammatory nature of many of his comments that I think offended just about every sub-population of the American people. Despite rumored and some confirmed reports of Russian interference, and despite the fact that honestly and truly in his heart I do not think Donald Trump wanted to win the highest oath of office in the word, he won. So whatever he said, whatever he did, it resonated with enough of the American people that he is now being sworn in as our 45th President.
After I congratulate President Trump because honestly that is all I have for the man I affectionately turn to my fellow millennials because as my mom put it, "what he does isn't going to affect my generation (Baby Boomers) too much, but yours...that's what I am worried about." And so am I! And so should you be, afraid.
But also challenged; after I wallowed (and I am being literal) for several days after Donald Trump won the election my mindset changed to, "BET!". I felt challenged, I felt this was one of those instances where maybe many of us, me included shied away from having strong political views. From voicing these views, from galvanizing others, from standing up for others that may not be able to, and most importantly from sharing my unique talents to further not just my family, friends, self and at times my wallet, but my community. And in this "BET!" moment I realized that despite the fact that our beloved, and gosh are they beloved First Family and fearless 44th President takes leave that we missed something when he won. Something that as lastly as every ounce of his days in office and legacy was the introduction to the power of grassroots movements and additionally the power in minority communities coming together. Grassroots organizations have been long touted with elevating President Obama to the White House, however that term, grassroots, go to the South Side that Michelle is fondly from or Cascade where many Atlanta rappers hail, they have no idea what grassroots means! So thus the foundation of what fondly helped us scream HOPE and CHANGE in 2008 and 2012 were never fully understood outside of the man and face we attached to the movement. And I may not have the official definition but the way I think of grassroots is an authentic home grown movement that draws people in and informs them. Well shoot we can do that!
This is exactly the approach Republican party replicated after President Obama took office in 2008; a grassroots movement to emphasize the disenfranchisement of the working White population. And this movement whether we were aware it was taking place or not, is what ultimately got Donald Trump elected.
And again kudos...because that was not Trump's plan or was it? To speak to a population that was rarely televised as experiencing plight. And just in that act of their struggle real or imaginary being left from the public eye created more disgust for government, minorities, women, and anyone else. Just as a child in preschool is mad his classmates perceivably received more attention and graham crackers from the teacher. But is that child's plight and feelings not real?! Well yes! While Trumps presidency begins wrought with controversy, I believe I speak for many that believe that there needs to be a better focus on everyone's struggles. But just as in school when it's not ok to bite back, which is what I consider this to be as a last ditch effort by rich staunch hard Republicans to gain power by any means necessary, even backing newly elected President Trump.
But in one of my favorite lines uttered by First Lady Michelle Obama to date, "when they go low we go high".
So "bet", Donald Trump is our president for 4 years. Baring his Republican colleagues decide to put a stop to his inflammatory Cabinet picks, shady business deals and all around foul mouth, none of which has yet to be considered illegal or even piss many people in power off, we have to not only deal but we to go high! We have tweeze out the positive and powerful aspects of the still growing legacy of President Obama and his family. We have to confront our demons and fears so that we can lend our talents to not just our direct networks but to others far and in between, and lastly we have to embrace community and find ways to be prepared when the our voices are to be heard on local levels, state levels and national levels to ensure we do not cower and hide because a bigot, racist and narcissist and all his friends have taken over the highest office of our nation. We have to prepare to take it back and to not just take it back and do better, but do our best.
We will survive these next 4 years, just like those fateful days freshly out of a relationship, we cannot see that far into the future to know it...but we will survive, we will make it. What I challenge you and me to do is not just make it, not just survive but stand up, go high, get in a "BET!" mindset, memorialize President Obama's legacy by doing more, giving more and being more.