Dear President Obama,

As we near the end of your presidency, our country couldn’t be at a more important (and terrifying) precipice. Both the Democrats and Republicans have made their nominations official, and we’re left an uninspiring choice between two major party candidates who aren’t you. I’m legitimately afraid that one might even bring this country to collapse if he’s elected (a sentiment I know you share). And while our entire nation is enraptured by this unfortunate presidential election season, with far too much hate being thrown across this country, I worry that the momentous occasion that is the end of your presidency won’t be given it’s proper due. That you won’t receive a suitable sendoff. And while I highly doubt this letter will ever reach your attention, maybe it prompts more folks to think about and share all that you taught them during these last eight years you’ve been in office. And maybe enough people accept the invitation to share that a swell of appreciation tumbles your way. Or maybe (and highly likely) it doesn’t.

Either way, I want to share that you taught me how to live from my “why;” how to shrug off the perceptions of others; about the courage of captain’s convictions.

You showed me that my hope should only be placed in God; that being the first at something will also place you first in the “most scrutinized” category; that America isn’t post-racial and that this is an absurd aspiration to begin with.

From you I learned that leadership is a lonely place and that doing the right thing often isn’t popular; I learned what true diplomacy looks like and how powerful of a tool language can be.

You weren’t perfect. You disappointed me at times…like your policies on immigration and deportation; the fact that you weren’t able to close Guantanamo Bay; the drone program. I wish you had gone all-in on universal healthcare rather than leave us with an imperfect system. I had higher hopes for what you would do to improve our public education system. You wore dad jeans and your NCAA tournament brackets were always busted.

However, you were and always will be MY president.

Numerous pieces of commentary will be made about your presidency, many positive and many negative. But it was impossible for you to live up to the standards we set for you as a nation. The Right turned you into something evil, said you weren’t born in this country and constantly doubted your religious affiliation. They vowed on your first day in office to never pass any of your bills if they could help it. The Left called you soft and said you weren’t liberal enough. Both sides made it about politics when you were trying to make it about the people. And in surveying the deck you were dealt, I believe that no one could have played a better game, especially with the card you held of being our first black president.

You fought to make this a better country. You fought for the least of these, for black America, for a better future. You led through conviction in unprecedented ways. You sang “Amazing Grace” at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. You slow-jammed the news with the Roots. You brought out the anger translator at a White House Correspondents Dinner. You cried at your daughter’s graduation. You make sure we know how much you love your wife, through your words and the way you look at her. You never made us question your morality. Or your intelligence. Or your eloquence. Or your cool.

You will be missed President Obama. You weren’t the perfect president, but you offered hope I’m glad I believed in. And it’s my wish that one day I can shake your hand, look you in the eye, and thank you for all that I gained from you as my president. And then take an epic selfie so I can retire from social media.

Until then and with all admiration,

Andrew Simmerman

#happybirthdayBarack