Katy, Aleena, and Patrick reading the letters they wrote to President Obama

3 Americans Read Their Letters to President Obama on Faith, Hope, and Progress

As we look back on the past eight years, we’re lifting the stories of Americans whose lives have been shaped by the Obama Presidency. For Patrick, a registered Republican in Massachusetts, it gave him a chance to choose hope over cynicism. For Aleena in Maryland, it’s meant tolerance and acceptance of her faith. And for Katy in Rhode Island, it’s meant stepping into adulthood with the peace of mind that comes with health care coverage.

Patrick, Aleena, and Katy wrote letters to the President to share how his leadership has directly impacted their lives. You can watch and read their stories below.

And if you’re inspired to share what President Obama has meant to you, post the moments you remember most on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #YesWeCan, at whitehouse.gov/YesWeCan, or in the comments below. Then make sure to tune into President Obama’s Farewell Address on January 10.

Patrick from Massachusetts

“I’m a registered Republican (though I’ve tried twice to switch parties), and I didn’t vote for you because I couldn’t believe in the ‘hope’ message…I couldn’t help but be skeptical.”

September 28, 2016

Mr. President,

I want you to know that in 2009 I was in my junior year of college when you were voted to be the next President by the people. I remember where I was, what I was doing, what I was wearing, and what I was thinking when I realized you were indeed to be the next President, and the first African-American President of the United States. I’m a registered Republican (though I’ve tried twice to switch parties), and I didn’t vote for you because I couldn’t believe in the “hope” message. I’m a communication and interface designer — I’m familiar with persuasion and how to manipulate people through emotion and visual stimulation. I couldn’t help but be skeptical.

I want you to know that now…today…I’ve never felt more proud of my country, and it is almost entirely because of you.

Here I am, now 28 years of age, a successful designer, engaged to the woman of my dreams and enjoying my good health, family, and the world that I live in. It is perhaps one of the most scary times in my lifetime, ironically. However, over the past eight years you’ve brought a pensive, decent, thought-provoking approach and (dare I say) swagger to everything you’ve done. You speak graciously, you show emotion and as your presidency has aged, you’ve proven to me, and to so many others, that while in the moment we all might disagree, in the moment you were abiding by your best judgement, and more importantly your heart. And this is exactly what I have wished for out of the President of the Untied States.

I’m sad that your presidency is coming to an end. However I’m thankful that I was here to experience it. Like you, I abide by what I believe in. Like you, I make it a point to not conclude, assume or judge, but assess, observe and consider my options when faced with challenge or diversity.

Like you, I’m trying to do my part to build a life around me that not only supports my interests but the interests of the people I walk this earth with.

I want you to know that I appreciate you, your administration, the first family and everything you’ve done for us these past eight years.

I sincerely hope you’re able to read this. And I understand my tongue makes it seem as though it’s over tomorrow…but I’ve never done something like this before. Now would twenty year old me ever have imagined writing you this eight years later.

The best to you, to your family, and though I’m not a religious man, God bless America.

Sincerely,

Patrick Branigan


Aleena from Maryland

“Amongst the negative comments and the rising hatred of Muslims in this country, your speech was like an oxygen tank.”

Dear Mr. President,

As-Salaam-Alaikum. My name is Aleena K., and I currently go to Northwest High School in Germantown, Maryland. Per the requirements of an honors research program I participate in, I completed a senior research project on a topic of my choosing. I wanted to make my project something that I could use as a learning experience, something that would correctly embody the passion I have for helping people. That was when I settled on my topic: Muslim-Americans. As a practicing Muslim-American, I am all too familiar with the difficulties of being a Muslim in a non-Muslim majority country. Thus, my project, titled Split in the Middle: Why Muslim-American Teenage Girls Struggle with their Identity, was born.

Completing this project was difficult. I had to face not only my insecurities, but the harsh rhetoric of other Americans. Because one of the potential causes of an identity crisis is the media, I had to browse through the comments section of various articles that pertained to Muslim-Americans. I spent a couple of hours, sitting on the floor of my bedroom, reading thousands of comments from other people throughout America. The multitude of people who expressed their desire for deporting Muslims shocked me the most. I am an American, I grew up here. I say the Pledge of Allegiance every day. And yet, I am a Muslim. I fast during the month of Ramadan and celebrate Eid. I read the Quran, go to religion class, and pray. Which one was I allowed to be? It is a question that plagues me to this day.

Today, I watched you give a speech at a mosque in Baltimore. You talked about how society needs to stop its rhetoric, because it is not fair to profile a group of people as a result of the actions of one person. You mentioned how we are not just Muslims, or just Americans, but we are both. We are Muslim-Americans. Amongst the negative comments and the rising hatred of Muslims in this country, your speech was like an oxygen tank.

It allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief and give me hope that maybe, just maybe, there was an influential figure who believed in us.

As I am writing this letter, I am listening to Adele’s song “All I Ask” on her new album. And all I ask is for acceptance and tolerance from others. I know that this can eventually be achieved, not from the work of just one individual, but from Muslims and non-Muslims alike. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your faith in us.

Sincerely,

Aleena K.


Katy from Rhode Island

“I strongly feel that my personal milestones bear the stamp of the country’s progress over these past eight years…”

March 15, 2016

Dear President Obama,

Next week, the Affordable Care Act will be six years old, and in a way, so will I. I’ll be six years removed from college, six years into the beginning of adult life and career, and six years indebted to you for making it all possible.

How vividly I remember that warm spring day in 2010, only a few weeks before my graduation from American University! The sun was shining, and my face hurt from smiling — it was like a dream. Suddenly, incredibly, I could look ahead to commencement in May with a giant weight lifted from my shoulders.

I could begin my job search with the security of knowing I could continue health care coverage on my parents’ plan for a few more years.

I graduated. Absent the pressure to immediately find a job with benefits, I secured an internship that didn’t offer health care, but allowed me to pay my bills and gain experience. I worked hard, and that internship soon led to a full-time position with benefits in a field that I adore. ACA made it all possible.

Meanwhile, my now-fiancée was attending community college. In 2011, he decided to enroll in a new program in Energy Utility Technology — a program that, incidentally, was created and funded by a Recovery Act grant from the Department of Energy. After graduation he was hired as a technician by our local utility company — a job he absolutely loves, but never would have had the opportunity to pursue if not for the Recovery Act.

When I look back on it all, I’m truly amazed: Two of the defining policy achievements of your presidency have directly impacted our lives and our careers in a way that I never could have imagined when, as a student at American, I watched Senator Ted Kennedy endorse you in 2008. Then, I was inspired. Now? I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

Our jobs, our little house, our upcoming wedding this June — everything we have in life, everything we’ve been able to work towards, and to afford — we have because you set us up to succeed in a way no one else could have done.

I strongly feel that my personal milestones bear the stamp of the country’s progress over these past eight years, and I will never take for granted what you’ve done for us.

With sincere thanks and great hope for the future,

Katherine Jurczyk