An open letter to President Barack Obama


To the man and his family who have captivated the nation, the world, and most of all, my family:

Since 2008, my family has been mesmerized by you. We have bought every magazine you’ve been on and watched every speech and interview. As your term comes to a close, you have been on TV quite often; it almost feels like 2008 again, when your face was everywhere we turned. I miss those times. I was seven years old, and for the first time, I saw a man with skin that looked like mine in politics. Granted, it was the first election I could remember, but it still meant a lot to me, and it meant a whole lot to the country.

On election night, my family was glued to the TV. I watched the numbers and the different colored states on the map, baffled by the obscurity of it all. There was an unmistakable sense of excitement and anticipation in the air. So I was excited too. The phrase “first black President” was imprinted in all our minds, and it was surreal. Everyone kept saying that these were the times that our children and grandchildren would read about in history books one day. I
could barely fathom the thought.

My mom made me go to bed early that night. I was really, really upset. I woke up the next morning to a note slid under my door from my sister that said, “Obama won :).” That note marked the beginning of a new era. I went to school that day to find that my friends didn’t mirror my excitement, but that didn’t dull the victory. We had just elected the country’s first black president. Even then, I knew that that was monumental.

Over the next eight years, my family gleefully watched you lead our country. You were different from all the other stone-faced politicians. You were funny, graceful, and human, and so were Biden and Michelle. I adored your whole family (Bo and Sunny, too). Both you and Michelle never wavered in your dignity in spite of seemingly endless malice and, at times, blatant racism. That was important. As the first black family in the White House, I’m sure you felt a tremendous amount of pressure to defy the malicious stereotypes that have plagued you all your life. I’m sure that was hard. But I think you handled the role with more nobility than I could have ever mustered myself.

I hope you know how much it meant to all of us minorities to see you in office. Hope. That was what you were to us, even to seven-year-old me and every other colored child who witnessed you make history. We watched you on our TV screens and suddenly the color of our skin wasn’t an adversity, but something to be proud of. Suddenly our dreams were more than just dreams, and more tangible than just out of reach figments of our imaginations. Thank you for that.

But you were more than just a face and more than just a symbol. You made change happen. You led our economy out of the worst recession since the Great Depression, created 11 million jobs, kickstarting the longest job-increase streak in history, reformed healthcare in the most significant way since 1965, eliminated Bin Laden, rallied for racial, gender, LGBTQ, veterans’, and students’ rights, and much more. You were there to lift the country’s spirits during our darkest times. And every time you gave a speech, your eloquence inspired every ear that listened. I can only aspire to possess half as much of the intellect and charisma that you display every time you open your mouth. As a citizen of the country you led for eight years, I could ask for nothing more.

To Michelle, you have been the most influential and inspiring first lady. You were passionate and strong, and I always admired that. Your speeches were just as stirring as your husband’s, and I will always adore you just as much as I adore him. You took a stand on an issue that you cared about and made things happen. Your undying fervor and poise in the face of the nastiest comments made about your skin color and gender will never fail to amaze me. A great deal of people tried to push you down, but you refused to be silenced. Thank you for being the most beautiful, intelligent, and inspiring role model a little girl could ever ask for (Please, please, run for President.)

Thank you to you and your family for being a symbol of hope and change for Americans everywhere. Thank you for your infectious, funny, and lovable personalities that always shined through in every speech and interview. Thank you for caring about the well-being of your people, and always putting your all into fighting for this country. I will forever be grateful that I was alive to call you my President, and I know the generations to come will be jealous.

You told the country we could, and we did. Thank you.

Reena Mathews