In Gratitude, Mr. President: My Farewell Message to Barack and Michelle Obama.
My very first memory of a presidential election race was when Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro ran against President Reagan and George H. W. Bush in 1984.
I was 9.
I was intrigued by a woman running as a Vice President and stared with both confusion and a sense of pride every time I saw her name on the bumper stickers. However, we always discussed Reagan at the dinner table. And I could not figure out why. Unbeknownst to me at the time I grew up in a Republican household, and silently dreaming Ferraro could switch sides and run with the incumbent was fruitless. It was a landslide.
Clearly, politics was not my calling.
I certainly should have figured out my family’s voting preference being born under President Ford, raised under President Carter, President Reagan, and President George H.W. Bush, but I never knew.
Even when I cast my first-ever Presidential ballot, for the incumbent Bill Clinton, I had no idea my household bled red, and voted in opposition to myself. I value that about them. They let me decide for myself if I were to become an Elephant or a Donkey.
And I am proud to say, I am an ass.
To this day, I am not a huge fan or follower of politics because the only thing I value truly is human rights, and I feel that gets overlooked. Poor, rich. White, black. Female, male. Christian, Muslim. Gay, straight. We are all people. Humans. I think we forget that. There has been too much rhetoric, too much hate, and not enough substance or action or unity.
You, Mr. President, changed that in my opinions of politics. I also prefer intuition, a feeling, a vibe. And I can certainly say your speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention gave me a vibe.
I immediately turned to my then-husband and said “He is our future President. I’ll bet you anything.” I distinctly remember the campaign of hope in 2008.
My very liberal, strongly gay-friendly neighborhood was alight, vibrant, walking 10-feet in the air at the possibility of you, Mr. President, becoming our 44th.
Honestly, there was no need to stump in my northwestern Philadelphia neighborhood. Beg, borrow or steal, THEY were coming out to the polls come Election Day, and THEY were voting for you, Mr. President.
I did try to get my then-husband, a Republican, to swap parties for the primary in such an important place as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I was that passionate. That determined to have you on the ticket. He did not. But he did vote for you in the general election. It was his first ever ballot cast for a Democrat.
I remember standing in a long line at 6:30 in the morning on that glorious day, giddy, my coffee growing cold in my hand talking with others in line, just waiting, thrilled to cast my historical vote no matter how long it took. My privilege as an American, a woman, to vote was never felt so strongly as it was on that day. And, it had absolutely nothing to do with the color of your skin or your ethnicity. It had to do with my whole-hearted belief in you and your ideas. (On a side note our neighborhood was selling t-shirts with your face on one side and the Phillies on the other. We had two goals. An Obama White House and a World Series. We were blessed with both).
I watched the coverage that night, ecstatic like most of my friends and neighbors. Is it real? Is this happening? This COULD happen. It was sheer joy.
After your swearing in, my heart, as I can only imagine yours did once, too, immediately fell for the First Lady. Mrs. Michelle Obama, I am a 41-year old white woman who grew up in a predominantly white, upper middle class neighborhood with an amazing public school system who got her BA at Michigan State because of a journalism scholarship. And you are who I want to become when I grow up. You inspire me Every. Single. Day. Your grace, your compassion, your intelligence, foresight, fierceness (and hell, your Carpool Karaoke) will forever be a gift to young women on this soil and abroad for centuries to come.
God Bless your beautiful daughters. I can’t wait to see what they become as grown women.
Mr. President, clearly you have always had my respect, my awe and my support. On the day you recognized the LGBTQ community in your State of the Union address, I knew forever in my heart, you would always be my favorite.
Thank you for your service. Thank you for choosing to lead our country. Thank you for giving all of yourself. Thank you for your high times and your low. Thank you for being Peter Souza’s subject of a lifetime. Thank you for the ACA. It is the only way I get healthcare and the only way my friends with cancer have a fighting chance (and money to pay for food). Thank you for your forward-thinking legislation. Thank you for being the FIRST President to openly speak about and for people who are not white, male or Christian. Or white collar, for that matter.
Thank you for being approachable, honest, real and HUMAN. Thank you for being the man in office, on record, when the law for same-sex marriage was passed. Thank you for sharing your amazing wife with us. Just, thank you.
I will forever remember your first inauguration — I took the day off to watch it — as much as I will remember your final speech as President.
With tears in my eyes, I thank you for being my President. I wish nothing more than blessings, peace and REST for you and your family. You have touched my heart, Mr. and Mrs. President. And as long as I breathe, I will never forget you or your service and your successes in your tenure at our helm. Thank you.
To witness your service in my lifetime is a blessing onto itself. God Speed. God Bless. And please do not let this be the last time we get to experience your greatness. #YesWeCan #YesWeDid #Michelle2020