We Were Eight Years in Power
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Contributed by Andrea Barraza
Chapter 5

Just like the previous chapters, the author designated Chapter Five for discussions on Obama’s fifth year in office as President of the United States. Coates starts by highlighting how there was a time in the cosmic world where “good acts were rewarded and bad deeds punished” (Coates 251). The author asserts that he began to have a belief in the workings of the cosmic world when he was still a child. As a child, he acquired the ability to differentiate between the right and wrong things to do. In this regard, as he grew up, he was an individual who could easily recognize things that would be deemed unwarranted in the specific area where he to live. However, things would not always turn out the way he wished them to be. This made him find it hard to attain some level of belief in God. He specifically tells of a story where he was beaten up by boys while people, including adults, walked by and could not come to his rescue. This made him develop a high level of resentment against them as he was wondering why people happened to do wrong things, like those who beat him up and those who could not help him in a disadvantage situation while they had the capacity to help. However, Obama’s ability to ensure that good acts were rewarded and bad deeds punished happens to be one of the evident things that Coates seem to have observed during Obama’s fifth year in office.

In an effort to demonstrate Obama’s ability to reward good deeds and punish bad ones, the author discusses the fear that the American society had in having a black president. However, after Obama held office for his first term, many realized that he served all Americans with a high level of astuteness and without discrimination, as he “declined to talk about how race complicates the American present,” but worked to eliminate racial woes (Coates 293). In this regard, Obama demonstrated a high level of intelligence by looking at how the problem of racial bigotry could be dealt with rather than agreeing that it was an existing problem. Coates also points out that Obama did not want to talk about how his race brought a challenge to his work as president. However, it was true that the high level of racial intolerance in the country that existed meant that Obama had to deal with a much larger problem, which he was able to do in a smart way. The author also demonstrates how Obama was a person who would do whatever was right, for the good of human beings, at any particular time. This is evident as Coates writes about the murder of an unarmed an eighteen-year-old boy known as Trayvon Martin, who died in the incident, and the response that Obama gave by ensuring that there was justice for the deceased. In this way, Obama’s assertions were ones that were filled with a deep understanding of the African-American way of life by ensuring that good acts were rewarded and bad deeds punished.


In this chapter, Coates aims to show how Obama transformed America into a sane society by having the capacity to advocate for the right things and repudiate the wrong deeds. Initially, one can tell how disillusioned the author lived in a completely imperfect world where people never saw the value of rewarding good deeds and punishing for the wrong deeds. In the chapter, it is evident that the author held the belief that there was a vast world somewhere in which people were able to gain access to some level of justice, something which suggests lacked in the US society before Obama’s tenure in the presidency (Coates 272). Before the Obama’s presidency, the author felt like the world is full of injustice and only a few people happened to be willing to open up and speak against them. Such people often have the ability to understand the situation that people who suffer might be in to heed their voice and make their feelings heard and felt. The ability for Obama to speak up regarding the murder of Trayvon Martin showed that he was a man who was able to identify the challenges that vulnerable people and communities such as the black people normally experience and make informed leadership and management decisions especially with regards to justice. This case also shows that Obama was a person who was always willing to see that truth and justice was always accorded and adhered to effectively.

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