It was 2006. I was a junior in college at the time.
My mother brought me to Hynes Convention Center to see Deval Patrick make a major campaign speech. We hustled up the escalators and packed into a large room filled to the brim. We were fifteen feet from the stage.
A young senator with a unique last name stepped onto the stage to tell us about his friend Deval. I had never been so electrified.
I don’t remember what he said. But I remember that in the midst of a Bush presidency, in the midst of an unjust war, on the cusp entering a job market whose prospects were dismal at best, I felt a rush of hope. I’d follow this guy anywhere, I thought to myself.
And I did. I followed Barack Obama from the moment he announced his candidacy. I was accused of being a bad feminist because I supported him over his female opponent. I questioned the audacity of such a thought–a black President, with an Arabic middle name? I gave money. I made phone calls. I knocked on doors.
I voted for Barack Obama, and on my 23rd birthday, November 4, 2008, I popped champagne in my North Carolina apartment as my friends and I rejoiced in the most historic and hopeful moment I could possibly imagine.
I followed Barack Obama as he faced his opposition head on, with a smile, and strong diplomacy. I followed him as he evolved on marriage equality, as he wrestled to open up healthcare to more Americans, as he hosted the first ever Passover seder in the White House (with my high school classmate, thankyouverymuch), as he expanded a drone program that made me sick, as he allowed immigrant children access to state colleges, as he spoke about God in a way I couldn’t understand, as he refused to tie terrorism to any one religion, as he imposed sanctions on a mother-country I likely will never be able to visit, as he got not one but two beautiful pooches, as he avoided conflicts with Republicans I wish he had faced more forcefully, as he spoke to me and my fellow Bostonians after we were attacked, as he cried over children killed by gun violence, as his family made the White House beyond cool with Debbie Allen dance classes and rap concerts, as he supported a Democratic candidate I couldn’t fully get behind, as he rejoiced in the joy of children, as he continued to send military aid to uphold a war I want to end, as he brought his intellect and poise to every moment, as he taught me and made me feel things and made me angry and excited for the future.
I followed him then, I will follow him now. As he and Michelle continue to lead, to inspire, to show us that leadership is imperfect, but beautiful, when done with love, flexibility, and awe. They both promised that even after their stay in the White House is over, they’ll be fighting alongside us. That’s a real leader. Someone who will stay true to the cause no matter what.
That senator in Hynes Convention Center made me a follower for life. So I’ll follow his example as I work to help women and their children break the cycle of poverty by using their own resilience; I’ll march when asked, I’ll sign when prompted, I will call my representatives when necessary, I’ll vote every single time I am able. I will follow his example in my career, in my life, and in my heart forever. To seek justice in all that I do and to help as many others as I can along the way. I’ll follow him now…into the fray, to fight the good fight, and to continue to hold on to the audacity of hope.