It was 8 years and a day ago that we began this journey together, Barack. On that cold January 20th 2009, you took the Oath to the Oval Office, and I took the first step towards full self-empowerment. As you laid out your vision for a better world in front of millions, I wrote the first post of this blog and ventured into a professional and personal adventure in search of myself and my mission on this Earth.
It has been eight long and hard years, and yet I have savored every bit of it, always looking up to you, for guidance and light. At times, I struggled to face an unfair reality I didn’t agree with, to pursue my dreams of common good despite everyone around me saying I should conform to “normality”, and accept the status quo. You didn’t have things going any easier though, the change you advocated for was brutally resisted by powerful forces in the shadows, showing their muscle in a frontally opposing Congress and Senate. You were insulted, I was left alone. I was broke, you were blocked.
But boy, we did not despair, and neither did we falter. Quitting was never an option for us. We were stubborn enough to persevere as long as necessary, and smart enough to know we simply had to improve strategies and adjust tactics. We fell a thousand times, but got back up every single one of them, growing stronger and more determined. Becoming a better president, and better persons along the way. Because we were convinced to the core that things could and should be different, that change was possible, and that we should be an instrumental part of it.
And it happened, sometimes gradually, sometimes abruptly, we found our resolve, that inner-most strength that makes us so much more resilient we ever thought we were. We fought and won important battles, and most importantly, elevated ourselves above the circumstances to keep the horizon in sight. Hope not only stayed with us all throughout, but became who we were, bringing in millions of new people eager to be a part.
A lot has happened over these past 8 years. Unforgettable moments that shaped us, and forged our character. I can recall a few off the top of my head now, like the incredible 15M Movement (AKA Spanish Revolution), which represented the “awakening of our collective conscience” for millions of young people in Spain, me included.
The passing of the Affordable Care Act, and how it literally saved the lives of millions of Americans previously uninsured and living in constant fear. The launch, growth, and eventual electoral victories of the first-ever national green party in Spain -EQUO-, to which I proudly contributed as a volunteer early on.
Your reinvigorating reelection as President (Four More Years!), with that love-defining picture of you and Michelle embraced in a timeless hug.
My ode and your speech in honor of the great role model of ours -Nelson Mandela, Madiba-, at the time of his mortal death (his immortal ideals forever with us). The ruling in favor of marriage equality, by the Supreme Court, on that glorious early summer day. And a very special one for me, the fruition of decades of international negotiations at the UN level, and civic demonstrations all around the globe: the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. You made it possible thanks to all your diplomatic efforts, and leading-by-example actions back home. I, we contributed by adding the voice of the “small people” in economic terms, that is ecopreneurs and sustainable SMEs, from all over Europe in our case. We were both in Paris at the same time, giving it all we had, knowing that History and our children would judge us on what we did or did not in the City of Light. And light there was in the end, illuminating the long but promising path ahead of us.
What a roller-coaster of a ride it’s been! What a humbling learning process! We’ve come to know so much about ourselves (a mere fraction of what’s left!), what we are capable of, our place in the Universe, the wonders of working in a team, the meaning of life (serving others!), the interconnectedness of all beings, the key to happiness (sharing!) … and that when we come together, as one people, there is absolutely nothing we cannot accomplish. Setting foot on the Moon (or Mars!), stopping climate change, ending poverty, reverting inequality. Nothing. That belief, that fundamental truth, is who we are. You and me. All of us.
On the other hand, we have also realized we view some matters differently (beauty lies in diversity). For instance, you think capitalism can be fixed with relatively-simple solutions, and I believe we need a totally new systemic approach with human and holistic well-being replacing money and capital at the very heart. You regard global trade agreements as progress, whereas I see them as ways of yielding people power to multinationals. However, as much we may disagree on the means, we certainly share the end: a more inclusive, sustainable, and equitable society for all. What matters, what truly matters, is common: our guiding principles of human decency, love, and compassion.
As we now move on to a new phase in life for both of us (you out of the White House, and me embarking on my most ambituous project/movement yet –Ecopreneurs for the Climate-!), countless new adventures and challenges await us, an ongoing reminder of the most critical lesson of all: the struggle for our rights and future is not the struggle of a day, a presidency, or even a professional career; but that of a lifetime of commitment and service.
Amid this transition period, a setback has occurred. And not a minor one, but a crystal-clear, sweeping sign of a profound wound that had been latent for a while, invisible to many. I’m talking, as you may imagine, about the fascist forces that have fallaciously tapped into the discontent and anxiety of millions of people, and offer them a fake and false outside enemy (the immigrant, the gay, the weak, the “other”), trying to divide us up for their only benefit. The recent chain of events pointing in this direction (Brexit, Trump, Putin, far-right parties ascending in Europe, massive migrations all over, widespread terrorism…) speak to an undeniable truth that urgently and boldly needs to be addressed: the growing inequalities, and consequent degradation of living standards, created by unregulated and dehumanized globalization. A single fact tells it all: the 8 richest people in the world own as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population, i.e. 3.5 BILLION people! Combine that with runaway climate change (2016 has set the scary record of three successive warmest years ever), the sixth massive extinction underway, and … we may be talking about “full civilizational collapse” in a few decades, in line with NASA’s simulations. Stephen Hawking, the brilliant physicist and thinker, synthesizes it elegantly: “We can’t go on ignoring inequality, because we have the means to destroy our world but not to escape it”.
Yes, the challenges ahead are formidable, perhaps the grandest in the history of our species. But there is one way forward, and one only: Hope. After all, “rebellions are built on hope,” as the new Star Wars’ heroine throws at her rebel colleagues before battle. And that is precisely what we need, an all-out “rebellion” against injustice, inequality, unsustainable business, undemocratic governments, self-perpetrating establishment, corporate-controlled mainstream media, elites-run capitalist institutions … globalization as we know it for goodness sake! A rebellion to protest, but above all, to protect the one planet we’ve got and all the people that inhabit it, including future generations. A rebellion to change it all, offering systemic solutions to tackle all these problems, and reinvent ourselves in the process (what an opportunity!)
The good news is that … this is happening right now, everywhere! We have seen it at Standing Rock, where native peoples from across the Americas, and the world at large, have joined forces with environmentalists, racial justice leaders and other allies in an awe-inspiring movement, perhaps a game-changer, a renaissance. They have halted construction of a costly pipeline (#NoDAPL), in a major victory (although not definitive) for the whole human rights and climate movement. They have even called themselves “water protectors”, winning the language battle over the corporate media who tried to portray them as “pipeline protesters” in an attempt to vilify them, instead of the real criminals here, the reckless oil industry tycoons. Remember, language defines reality … so let’s expand it! Let’s set new rules for the game!
Moreover, as I write these lines, one of the most consequential marches in recent memory is taking place in Washington DC and in cities across the planet: the Women’s March. A single day after Trump’s inauguration, people are reacting, coming together, under a single flag -Humanity’s-, in the name of our shared values and common future. Movements are merging. People are rising up, demanding real democracy, taking back their power. We, the people, are winning.
So there is no reason to worry, my friend Barack, the road ahead will be bumpy and curvy, as we both now, but ready and steady we are. This is our fight, the reason why we exist. It is who we are. Diverse. Imperfect. Free.
I almost met you last July, as you stopped by Spain, and had a little meeting with Spanish young entrepreneurs programmed in your visit, but unfortunate events back home (mass shooting) forced you to cut your trip short at the last minute. I had the press pass already to cover the event. But I do not worry, because I know that, if you seek them, life always presents you with second chances. And I’ll be there next time it rains. Just saw your first post-presidency video, announcing your future plans around your Presidential Center –the Obama Foundation-, and I can tell you they harmonically resonate with mine: promoting active citizenship, and empowering changemakers. So, to my relief, I’m now reassured that this, my friend, has only been the beginning, and that I’ll have the opportunity to thank you and Michelle personally one day, for everything you’ve done. Maybe we could even do cool stuff together (training young climate leaders?) …
YES. WE. CAN. 🙂
“I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.” -Madiba (Nelson Mandela)