It’s been a tumultuous two weeks since the inauguration on Donald Trump. More womyn around the world marched than any other time for any other purpose in history. Executive orders have been flying off the desk in the Oval Office. The world seems to be changing, but whether it is for better or for worse is up to the eyes of the observer. For many, it’s been a time of confusion and sorrow, and for others a time of celebration.
For myself, I’ve been a mix of emotions for a lot of reasons. The trajectory of the country, preparing for post-undergrad life, saying goodbye to my lola (grandma) for a few months as she visits the Philippines. But no matter how many obstacles life throws at me, I’ve always found solace in one thing: sports.
And a few weeks ago, I had one more big goodbye I had to say to a fellow sports-lover. An emotional, heavy goodbye to the 44th president Barack Obama. In 2012 I turned 18 the day before the election, granting me eligibility to vote in that year’s’ election. I’m glad the first time I ever voted I was able to vote for him. A Chicago fan through-and-through, he oozed pride for the White Sox, Bulls, Bears and Blackhawks.
When a championship team would visit the White House he would be sure to take some playful jabs, like when he poked fun at deflategate when the Patriots visited in 2015. A few days before exiting office he teased the 2016 Cubs for taking so long to win another World Series. When the 2014-15 Warriors visited he joked, “It is rare to be in the presence of guys from the greatest team in NBA history, so we’re pretty lucky today because we’ve got one of those guys in the house. Steve Kerr from the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls!”. I always loved seeing pictures and videos of Obama shooting hoops, not just because he’s a lefty like me, but because we shared the same sentiment that sports has the power to unify.
President Obama continued to be a sports advocate and afficionado throughout his presidency. Both he and Michelle Obama supported the Play 60 movement, encouraging kids to go outside and play for 60 minutes a day. Every March, Obama would fill out a NCAA March Madness bracket on ESPN. During his time as president he awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award, to 12 different sports figures, including USF alumni Bill Russell.
Like myself, sports taught Obama valuable life lessons and gave him positive role models. During an interview with ESPN he mentioned Arthur Ashe and Muhammad Ali being two black figures in his life that taught him what it meant to “be a man”. He elaborated on the two’s stark contrasting styles but viewed each of them as revolutionary for using their popularity as a platform for raising awareness of various issues.
During Obama’s farewell speech he mentioned, “Sometimes it’s not enough to change laws. You’ve gotta change hearts.” When the Chicago Cubs visited the White House he expanded, “Sports has a way, sometimes, of changing hearts in a way that politics or business doesn’t. Sometimes it’s just a matter of us being able to escape and relax from the difficulties of our days.”
Thank you President Obama for everything you’ve done and the foundations of hope and strength you’ve left for the next generation to build upon. As we go forward into an era where it seems only questions and confusion continue to arise, we must remember Obama’s words, “The sun will rise in the morning.”
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay