Though many people say they opposed President Obama from day one, few can make that claim with as much literal meaning as I can.

Initially, I was opposed to the idea concocted by my peers in the Students for Liberty at UAB.  The plan was to set up a table on Obama’s inauguration day, where we would voice our opposition to the new President on the grounds that he did not represent the vaunted Hope and Change of his campaign, but rather a continuation of the Bush era’s failed foreign policy, invasive surveillance state, big business bailouts and all around government largess.

Though I certainly agreed with my cohorts that this was in fact what Barack Obama represented, I was skeptical that this was the right time to express it.  Both at the time and especially in retrospect, the months leading up to the inauguration of the nation’s first African-American president felt like a uniquely happy and optimistic time in recent American history.  Was it really necessary to spoil the good feelings of that moment with an openly negative message?

Objections noted, we proceeded with the plan and I agreed to commit a few hours of my Tuesday afternoon to this dubious cause.

In later political tabling events I experienced, whether we were promoting Ron Paul, Gary Johnson or giving away Constitutions, the main challenge was probably all the people walking by, ignoring or even actively avoiding us and whatever great message we may have been able to convey.  But on January 20, 2009 our conspicuously anti-Obama presence attracted plenty of attention on campus, and naturally much of it was hostile.  More than once we were called racists, which would prove to be a common, convenient and sometimes accurate way to denigrate many others who opposed Obama over the past eight years.  Many students however voiced my initial objection: why today?  Can’t you at least give him a chance?

However much benefit of the doubt Barack Obama deserved that day, I’m actually proud of the way my compatriots and I calmly and rationally defended our position and most of all, how we distinguished ourselves from much of the opposition that followed us.  For example, several conservative students happily approached our table over the course of the day, only to leave puzzled by our emphasis on Obama’s similarities to Bush and the way we stressed that this was not in fact to Obama’s credit.

A skeptical liberal student meanwhile quizzed us about our opposition to the bailouts, something he along with the new president believed was a necessary bandage to save the bleeding economy.  Looking back, I find it very striking how much pushback we got for our opposition to the TARP bailouts during those early years.  I wonder now how many of those folks later became fervent followers of Occupy Wall Street or the Bernie Sanders Revolution.

Since that day my 19 year-old college freshman self has since grown into a relatively more worldly 27 year-old working adult, facing yet another president deserving opposition from day one.  For the most part my values, principles and opinions haven’t changed too much, but I must admit to having kinder feelings for Barack Obama now than I did on that January day eight years ago.

Still, it’s hard to cut the Nobel Peace Prize winner much slack for his role in the thousands of bombs that have dropped and the wars that continue to drone on, while on the home front the already massive domestic surveillance infrastructure has expanded steadily on his watch.  Then of course there is the matter of Obamacare.  Whatever you think of the supposedly doomed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it’s not at all clear that Obama has left the healthcare industry in better shape than he found it.

But most of all from my small point of view, Barack Obama proved to be a very effective foil for young, activist libertarians such as myself.  His almost immediate failure to live up to the hype and the blatant dysfunction of government during the Obama era made it pretty easy to sell alternative ideas about how government should operate.

For me personally, the Obama era turned out to be quite the ride and I ran through damn near everything the circuit had to offer for young libertarians, which included time in my school’s aforementioned Students for Liberty and later Young Americans for Liberty chapter; knocking on doors in the rain for the ramshackle Ron Paul campaigns; associations with the Alabama chapter of Campaign for Liberty (which brought me my brief dalliance at the periphery of the Tea Party, an experience that really deserves its own retrospective piece); petitioning (sometimes also in the rain) for the Libertarian Party of Alabama and of course attendance at multiple exhilarating IHS, FEE, YAL and SFL seminars and conferences.

A bit later my political activism even paid me back by facilitating my internship in Los Angeles with the Moving Picture Institute, along with later internships in the belly of the beast itself, Washington D.C., where my time at the Cato Institute and the Atlas Network capped off a rather incredible journey.

As I’ve grown up during Obama’s presidency, it’s hard to imagine where and who I would be without the things I learned and most of all the people I’ve gotten to know over the past eight years, all due in no small part to my lingering opposition to the man nobly toiling away in that Oval Office.

Thanks, Obama.