Open Thank You to President Obama
Dear President Obama,
As your final days of your presidency come to a close, I have been conflicted with many emotions. I’m uncertain where the time has gone and what the future holds. One thing I am certain of is how thankful I am for you. You see, I’m not very good at sending thank you notes (hello 2017 resolutions!), and I’m sure you’ve received so many, but here’s my shout into the void.
In the fall of 2007, I started college at Loyola University Chicago. I met my life long friends, and I started my journey with you. I followed the beginning of the election with the attentiveness that only a college freshman has the spare time to do. My friends and I donned buttons, made phone calls, and posted support posters in our dorm windows. It was a magical time to live in Chicago. It was like we were all in on this special secret.
In the fall of 2008, I carved your name into my pumpkin (I swear it was a sign of respect). I drove home to Wisconsin to vote for the very first time with my 80 year old Grandpa. I camped out in Grant Park on an eerily warm November night and awaited the election results with hundreds of thousands of others. I will never forget that night. The hope and belief in that crowd was magnetic. As I walked up the middle Michigan Avenue that night, I believe we were all thinking, “what an amazing time to be alive.”
So here Mr. President is my thank you. Growing up and becoming an adult under your presidency was the very best climate to grow up in. The inspiring election season inspired me to continue to be politically engaged. It taught me that my voice mattered, and I could impart change through my actions. I don’t think I would have felt that empowerment, from another election. I think you know you inspired a generation, but I think I’ve figured out why, to me, you were so incredibly important.
You see, you and your Presidency were, by all intents and purposes, like the great first love we all wish for our friends, our children and ourselves. That first time you are out on your own and vulnerable to everything around you, you want certain things. You want a first love to keep you safe, and have your best interests at heart. You want to feel like your voice matters, and you can be your true self around them no matter what that means. You want them to be nice to you, but also be nice to the waiter. You want them to be the kind of person who surrounds him or herself with good people, and takes care of the people they care about. You hope they’ll be the kind of person who will be nice to your grandma, and dance with you in the kitchen, and sing silly songs in the car.
You were all these things and more. Not all people are lucky enough to have that first love be what it should be. To be safe and protected to grow, experience, and love with abandon, but we were. Growing into an adult during your presidency meant I was safe. My friends were safe. We could be who we truly are. I could go to graduate school and not have to turn down a dream job because they didn’t offer health insurance. I could travel to DC to protest environmental issues. It meant I could travel abroad and experience life, all while knowing, things were good at home. I was being taken care of, and I could trust the person in charge.
Recently, I have come to realize just how much this meant. Watching the President Elect and the directions of his decisions, has given me perspective on how I took advantage of how wonderful these last eight years have been. Like many first loves, I didn’t realize what I truly had until it was gone. Now I don’t know what the future holds.
What I do know is that growing up during your presidency, taught me that I have a voice and I can use it. The skills I was able to learn, in the safe and encouraging climate of your presidency, have prepared me for the day you would leave us. I know that we cannot stand quietly and allow hate and bigotry to prevail. You taught us hope. You taught us justice and equality should always prevail. You lead the force to heal the divides in this nation. You worked to bring both sides together against your opponents, everyday. Mr. President, you and Mrs. Obama, set an example everyday of how to handle yourself. You taught us every day through your actions, choices, and treatment of others.
Thank you for dedicating the last eight years of your life to us. Thank you for sharing your family with us. Thank you for teaching us hope. Please know it is because of you many of us have the skills, determination, and courage to march on Saturday against the injustice of the next administration. You have embodied, “when they go low, we go high,” and inspired a generation to say, “Yes we can” and “yes we will.”