My grandfather calls the house phone crying, my mom is ecstatic: it’s January 20, 2009, and Barack Obama is being sworn in as president. I’m confused. Yes, I understand he’s the first black president, that’s great. Yes, I know Martin Luther King would be proud, and that this moment is, as my 6th grade teacher put it, “monumental.”

But no matter how much my 12-year-old self wanted to make Obama’s election seem like something of grand importance, I just couldn’t. I had little relation. Of course I still joined in the hype; I wore my Obama cap to school and texted my friends in excitement as the inauguration went on. But my friends' hype, and mine, felt artificial. 

As we grew up and our interests moved from cartoons to parties, the excitement over Obama dried up in older generations. In we millennials, however, it was just beginning to blossom.

We begin to notice certain social constructs. Micro-aggressions made by our innocent white friends, being followed by store workers, or even actually hearing people not scared to say the n-word. 

The year is now 2012. We have gone from young and oblivious to young but vigilant. We’re in our early years of high school, and have begun to notice the unintentional segregation of our high school cafeterias. We’ve read books like To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn and we now understand just how hard our ancestors had it.

And then it happened. The spark that fired our anger. One of “us,” a young black millennial, just as hyped as we were to watch the 2012 NBA All-Star Game, put on his hoodie and went to the store, but never returned. His name was Trayvon Martin. He was a black millennial. We now had become aware of the target on our backs.

Tragedies like Trayvon's became all to familiar. Our parents would give us talks. Not the birds and the bees, but the cops and your color. “No sudden movements, do whatever they say and take your hood off,” they told us, and we began to feel trapped, hopeless.

But throughout those years, no matter what injustice had been committed against us, we could always turn on the TV and see a sharply dressed, charismatic black man who could’ve easily been our father as the President of the United States.

No matter how disheartened we may have felt, Obama gave us a visual symbol of hope. For eight years we could go to sleep knowing that the sky was the limit because we were represented at the highest level of government. If he could make it there, we could make it anywhere.

Now, here we are eight years removed from the innocent confused kids we were during Obama’s first inauguration. Under a new president, we come to realize that during our most vulnerable years, we all, in one way or another, looked up to number 44. Obama gave us an inherent confidence that grew as we did.

As young black millennials ready to change the world, our inspiration for success is Obama’s presidency. We won't forget what Obama taught us: change is possible, hope is forever.