President Barack Obama speaks at McCormick Place in Chicago, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, giving his presidential farewell address.

Associated Press photo by Charles Rex Arbogast

Eight years ago, on a Tuesday night, I sat at my laptop writing a column about the election of Barack Hussein Obama as not only president, but also the first African-American president of the United States.

It was an emotional moment, when Obama reached those magical Electoral College numbers that would proclaim him as the 44th president. Just 60 years earlier, people who looked like Obama were getting beaten and lynched across the South for having the gumption just to try to register to vote like other citizens in America.

I wrote that night that I wished my grandmother, the illiterate daughter of former slaves, would have been alive to see what had happened. If she had been around, I would have had to do some convincing to make her believe that a black man had actually been elected president.

She would have quietly shed a tear, then she would have immediately started praying for his safety. My grandmother was born somewhere before or near 1888, so you get the fear part.

It would have been similar to the time I told her I would be part of the first official basketball game pitting an all-black high school against an all-white school in East Baton Rouge Parish. She seemed nervous when I left that morning. My grandmother, who was usually asleep when I came home after a basketball game, did not go to bed until I came into the house that night.

Obama came into office when the Republican leadership swore that they would do whatever they could to disrupt his presidency, not considering how their positions could be damaging to the country. Essentially, the party was more important than the American people.

As happy as I was for Obama’s win, I was concerned that the previous administration had left the country in such a financial quagmire that his leadership team was doomed from the beginning. With everything against him and his administration, Obama pulled our country out of the economic graveyard.

He and his wife were a model couple — young, strong and vibrant. They were like no other couple in modern times to occupy the White House. Yet they were treated as awful and disrespected, probably more than any other president, including Richard “I am not a crook” Nixon. You remember the unprecedented “you lie” comment from the floor of Congress?

And, there were the years of fake news by Donald Trump claiming that Obama was not a U.S. citizen.

How preposterous it was for some to say at the time the mere election of Obama meant the U.S. was in a post-racial period. That period, my friends, may never happen.

Was Obama the perfect president? Not by a long shot. He took the terror organization ISIS too lightly, drew those lines in the sand and didn’t retaliate when they were crossed. (For good or bad, that latter stance did not compute in my old neighborhoods)

And, probably because of his upbringing, Obama never really understood the uniqueness and much-needed role played by historically black colleges and universities in the education of African-Americans. HBCUs never really got the financial support they needed from him.

That said, this president came to my high school last year and spoke to an adoring crowd. It was amazing, and something I will never forget. I still can’t get my head around a presidential motorcade passing through the Bottom, a black, mostly low-to-middle-income neighborhood, to cheers. How many stories has that generated in the community where I walked to McKinley High School?

When Obama exits the White House, I will know that he is leaving America better than the disaster that awaited him when he came in office. The unemployment rate was 9.3 percent when he came into office. It is now under 5 percent.

It’s now dancing around 20,000. There are 15 million fewer people without health care than when he took office, and the economy has added at least 9 million jobs.

His critics will say the percentage of people participating in the job market has dropped from 65.7 to 62.7. You would drop out, too, if the Republican-led fight against raising the minimum wage ensures there are fewer living-wage jobs out there.

President-elect Trump says that starting Jan. 20, he is going to "make America great again.” Just when was the last time he considered it great? Was it 1863, 1896, 1930, 1958, 1963, 1968 … When? And, why then?

So, I’m thinking, as the incoming Commander-and-Tweet comes into office, he just may mean 2008-2016.

Email Edward Pratt at