A Conversation with President Obama, 44th President of the United States

Celebrating NAHREP familia, cultura, politics, and grassroots action

January 27, 2022

Qué onda mi gente?!

I’ve always loved learning about history, and I still do. It’s identifying those key moments, events, and people who created a bend in the timeline of history, altered daily life, impacted a course of events, or changed our values. As a kid, I always wondered if the people who were witnessing these historic moments in real-time even knew they were what I like to call “life-bending” moments.

I think, for the most part, we do. We can sense it, smell it, and even when something is brewing we have a gut feeling. I mean… tell me you won’t always remember that feeling you had when the country shut down around March of 2020, or when the markets crashed back in 2008, or when Facebook started to become popular.

I was 26 years old when Barack H. Obama became the 44th president of the United States. I will probably always remember everything, down to the smells and tastes of that night. I was in Hyde Park, I had left graduate school to work on his campaign that summer—first in Denver and then at the national headquarters in Chicago working as the Deputy Director of Spanish Language Media for the campaign. I hadn’t slept in weeks, was working off adrenaline, but I did this alongside some of the most passionate people I had ever met. Oprah was standing a few feet from me, grown men were hugging each other crying. Black men and women were hugging and sobbing… it was unusually warm for a November night, and the electricity in the air was palpable—we just knew it was one of those “moments.” A friend of mine standing next to me started receiving calls from heads of state from all over the world to congratulate Barack Obama. He froze and looked at us as if to say, “H.O.L.Y. shit, Barack Obama is President of the United States,” and the rest of us just froze along with him, taken by the weight of the moment.

That “moment” changed my life. It meant that the daughter of immigrants, with a father who worked as a tree trimmer and a mother who went to school up to the 4th grade, was able to work at the White House and introduce her parents to the President of the United States in the oval office. It meant that I would get to travel to Mexico, the country my parents left due to a lack of opportunities, as staff to the President of the United States. So, speaking personally, it was a life-bending moment for me and for my family.

His election as the first Black president of the United States was undoubtedly one of those moments. And one of the most historic elements of that election was how it transformed the lives of the people who were swept up by the movement created throughout the campaign. It changed the way people viewed their own power.

Some of the lessons I learned from that campaign are relevant to the work we do with NAC.

  • Leading with your story and what drives you: the power of knowing how to briefly tell your story in a powerful and moving way, so that people can see what you’re about and what drives you, is one of the most valuable tools in organizing and in life. Building on the story of your family, your struggles, your triumphs, and your life changing moments that altered your own history is what’s going to create trust and community with those around you. When done well, it is one of the most powerful tools for bringing about change and influence in whatever you do.
  • Feeling inspired by what’s possible: being against something is never inspiring. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood this and so did President Obama. However, painting a world of what is possible and working toward that picture–that moves people like nothing else
  • You are the answer: you can’t wait for elected officials, the government or other leaders to spring up. You have to act and bring about change for your community. You are the leader you’ve been waiting for. You just have to be brave enough to see it.

Any guesses on why I’m talking about President Obama today?

If you haven’t done so already, register today for our National Convention and Housing Policy Summit in Washington D.C. March 14-16, 2022. It’s going to be one for the books.

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About Noerena Limón

Noerena Limón is NAHREP’s Executive Vice President of Public Policy and Industry Relations. Noerena heads the organization’s policy and advocacy efforts on issues ranging from homeownership, housing inventory, credit access and immigration.

Prior to joining NAHREP, Noerena spent six years at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and served as a political appointee under President Obama in the White House Office of Political Affairs.