On January 20, 2009, President Elect Barack Obama will become the 44th President of the United States of America. The political impact of this historic event has been thoroughly discussed and digested by the media, political analysts and people all over the world, resulting in Obama winning the confidence of the American people on election night. However, little has been discussed about the psychological impact of such an unprecedented and miraculous occurrence, the election of the first African American president of the United States of America.
All along the campaign trail before and after the Democratic National Convention as well as the actual election night, snapshots depicting the excitement of people from diverse backgrounds spoke volumes about the psychological impact of Obama’s journey to the White House. There was an overwhelming flavor of hope and empowerment throughout local communities and the world because of the promise of change. President Elect Obama ignited the fire for action as he began a movement of change.
In the midst of an economic downturn, a failed housing market, and the collapse of the stock market, the Obama campaign kept change as their victory song, and no matter where it was sung, people began to sing it, believe it, and evidentially promote and share it with others. A psychological shift happened in the thinking of the people. It was apparent that they began to believe in something greater than their current circumstances. They became motivated almost insistent on Keeping Hope Alive, a concept coined by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Hope is critical for the development of good psychological health and overall wellbeing. Without it, people do not have the necessary motivation to fight to overcome the inevitable stressors and disappointments of life. Without hope, our communities sit in a sea of despair, and the best and brightest minds sometimes drown and take others with them. When feelings of hopelessness persist, people are much more vulnerable to the deleterious effects of depression and anxiety.
Not only does President Elect Obama’s presidency promote a sense of hope and empowerment, it also has the potential to raise the level of self esteem and self concept for the young and the old. Countless reports in the media, especially CNN have captured the essence of pride that has been exuded by school age children, adolescents, young adults, middle age adults, and our elders from all walks of life. When Black folk see a Black family residing in the house where Blacks traditionally visited or relegated to a role of serving, it does something to one’s psyche. It changes a mindset that once believed: Only White men can lead our country, therefore, white must be better. The root cause of inferiority for Blacks stems from the legacy of slavery. Even though slavery was officially abolished, its psychological impact continues to enslave Black people today, especially when we constantly compare ourselves to the dominant culture and fail to see ourselves represented in positions of power. Furthermore, increasing self-esteem and self-concept are critical for our communities because when we feel better about ourselves, we will feel better about others.
We can’t leave out the articulate and gifted Michelle Obama who is a force to be reckoned with in her own right. In the culture of women and girls, Mrs. Obama is a serious role model along with the couples’ two daughters who will bring life and culture to the White House.
End of Part 1