In 2009, in the midst of chaos and fear, the world changed in a profound and unexpected way. We didn’t know then what the future held, but we were full of hope as a major event changed the world forever: the birth of our son, Miles.
Nothing could have adequately prepared us for the paradigm shift that came with bringing new life into this world—or the responsibility that accompanied it. Our every waking moment was suddenly dedicated to this new little person who seemed to need so much from us.
More so than my wife, I was completely unprepared to have a son. I realized that I was going to have to be the example for this new little person; that he would be looking to me as his example of what a man should be. It was a scary thought.
I began to ask myself what kind of person I wanted Miles to be, and looked for other people that I could point out to him as models. Examples of integrity and character in modern society were surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) scarce.
That is when I became interested in then-candidate Barack Obama, who I believed could provide a strong example for my children from the highest office. His adamant assertion that encouragement of individual ability should go hand-in-hand with community support, that the tax code shouldn’t favor the super wealthy over the poor, that health care should be a right for all Americans—these were policy positions that were not necessarily popular, but I felt they reflected a deep moral character.
A few months before Miles was born, I stood with my wife to witness then President-elect Obama give his acceptance speech in Grant Park. We celebrated together afterwards, spilling into the streets of Chicago with the joy of knowing we had just elected someone who held the same values as us, who would occupy the White House during the birth of our son.
I watched over the next few years as Obama fought for policies he believed to be right, despite fierce opposition. He signed the Recovery Act because it was the right thing to do, knowing he would get no credit for preventing a bigger economic meltdown. He fought for the Affordable Care Act, making sure my son could never be turned down for a pre-existing condition—costing him a lot of political capital. And he pushed through Wall Street reform to stop unscrupulous banks from gaming the system for profit.
Now I am hopeful again. Having just witnessed my second son’s birth under an Obama presidency, I am anxious to keep a man I have come to respect in the White House. Despite the expectations some had in 2008, I’ve never expected the President to be perfect. Becoming a father freed me from the expectation of perfection, for myself or anyone else. But I do believe that the President has proven himself to be a strong leader, who does what is right despite what is popular. And I strongly believe he has earned my voice and my vote.
Caleb Gardner is an amateur father and husband who writes about modern manhood and all its trappings at The Exceptional Man. In his spare time (of which he has very little) he dabbles in photography, design, and music. He calls Chicago home, and in winter, less-nice things.