Dear Obama family,
As your years in the White House come to a close, I’d like to offer my gratitude for your service to our country. Thank you for sharing your lives with us, for laughing with us, mourning with us, cheering with us, and inspiring us. You have remained a blessedly normal family for eight years, even in the face of unearned criticism and name-calling. You have shown us spouses who are in love, who have each other’s backs, and who are equal partners in a solid marriage. You’ve shown us two children grown into young women in the embrace of strong and supportive role models. I’m sure that you Obama girls understand the historic accomplishments of your parents; someday, when you may yourselves be parents, you’ll understand the parental accomplishments of your mom and dad under extraordinary circumstances.
Thank you, Michelle Obama, for wearing the cloak of first lady so well. Thanks for your style and smarts. Thank you for planting that organic garden at the White House and for inviting local children to tend it, a microcosm of our need to pay attention to the health of our children and our planet. Thank you for demonstrating how to be a thoughtful member of the “sandwich generation,” the women and men who care for aging parents and growing children at the same time. And thanks for your buff arms, to which we all aspire.
President Obama, our country has witnessed truly historic social advancement on your watch. My daughter and daughter-in-law are legally married, just as legally married as my daughter and son-in-law, which would have been unthinkable even a decade ago. These civil rights have been extended to and protected for all LGBT Americans. As a card-carrying PFLAG mom, I am forever grateful for this revolution of love.
Thank you for your eloquence. After eight years of a president who seemed to find communicating in the English language to be an insurmountable challenge, your speaking patterns, both prepared and impromptu, have been coherent, intelligent and witty. I’m going to miss that. Thank you also for being literate. We book lovers have delighted in a leader who is also a reader. Going to miss that, too.
Thank you for making the hard and sometimes unpopular decisions that brought our economy back from the edge of a depression. The furlough days and layoffs in my particular field are things of the past, and I sincerely hope they stay that way. I have to tell you, after your two terms as president, I get FDR. More specifically, I get the folks who voted for FDR for a third and a fourth term, because they had been over the precipice of economic desperation, and had seen their country rebound under a steady and proactive president, as we have. I’m sad that your legacy may be undone by the coming administration. But as the saying goes, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” May it be so.
Thank you for the Affordable Care Act, better (and correctly) known as Obamacare. My daughters are only four examples of the Americans who benefited from the ACA. Two of them were able to remain on their father’s insurance plan until the age of 26, by which time they had finished grad school and gotten their acts together to qualify for their own health insurance plans in their new jobs. Another daughter’s husband did not have to worry about being axed from their plan because of a pre-existing bout with cancer. And the fourth, an artist, was insured for the first time in years through a state exchange. Millions of Americans are grateful for Obamacare, for your care.
Last of all, as the end of your presidency draws near, thank you for your grace in defeat. Even as the country heads in another seemingly ominous direction, you have faith in America. Thanks for your example of decency, balance and kindness, as we brace for the waves of indecency, imbalance and unkindness crashing our way. These last days are bittersweet for your supporters, but this is not goodbye. We’ll see you around campus, around the protest lines, around the op-eds, around the constitutional crises. Maybe someday we’ll see you on the Supreme Court.
In closing, I quote your thoughtful words to your daughters about the election results, and about the road forward: “What I say to them is that people are complicated … And your job as a decent human being is to constantly affirm and lift up and fight for treating people with kindness and respect and understanding.”
From the bottom of my heart, thanks. I miss you already.