Dear President Barack Obama,
This letter is my weak attempt at expressing my gratitude to you for your leadership of our country these last eight years. You have been such a personal inspiration to me, I am afraid my words will not do my feelings justice, but I write this because it is in my heart.
I remember the first time I saw you, and heard your voice. Like many Americans, it was your appearance at the 2004 Democratic Convention. I was not as interested in politics as I am now. I had two young children, and was pregnant with my third child. Like many Moms, I had little time for myself and I rarely watched television.
I now believe we are all nudged to do things that seem insignificant at the time, that turn out to have a bigger impact on your life than you realize. Turning on the T.V. that night was one of those moments. You were speaking to the crowd at the convention and I was immediately transfixed. Your words and delivery were so eloquent, so inspirational, I remember thinking, “Now there is someone who makes me want to be a better person.” I was not alone and I understand that speech was the catalyst for a wider audience for your message. It is hard to imagine a time when Barack Obama was not a household name, but in 2004 it was not.
As a person who loves words, I believe when someone delivers words with such perfection, and they pierce through the noise of the world, and touch the hearts of thousands of people, that is no accident. Words have energy and when that energy lifts hearts and inspires people, a ripple effect is released amongst those who hear them. Words matter. You can tell when someone is in the right place at the right time, living their purpose on earth. For some, that bright light is intimidating and threatening, but for others it gives them hope. That is what your speech did for me.
After that speech, I admit, I became a bit of a fan. I started reading about you and as soon as it was released, I bought your book, “The Audacity of Hope” and read every word. Your vision and caring for others was very reflective of my beliefs on optimistic leadership and it resonated with me. I felt strongly, you would make a significant difference in the world.
When I heard, you were reading, A Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, I went to the library and checked out the book. It was over 900 pages, but I was interested in how you were preparing to become our leader. I thought it was such a wonderful idea to study the person most people would say is the greatest President in our history. It helped me understand how you chose your cabinet, and made your decisions. Because of the book, I could tell Lincoln was guiding you. I remember being so surprised by the opposition Lincoln faced as a President. We tend to glamorize the past and the history books do not always reflect the negative. As you were criticized and I would feel defensive of you, I thought perhaps knowing how much criticism Lincoln faced was a comfort to you? Greatness is not always recognized while history is being made.
I have never felt so proud of our country when we elected you. I had my three young children watch your inauguration and I remember saying to them, “You are watching history. I want you to remember this moment.” The hope was palpable.
You have not once disappointed me. As a student of leadership style, there is no one who inspires me more than you. While I am grateful for many of your accomplishments, I am most appreciative of the way in which you conducted yourself as President of the United States. You radiate class, grace, humbleness, genuine caring, empathy, compassion, integrity, and you made us laugh. You have raised the bar for what is possible for so many people. One of my beliefs about leadership is, the leader sets the tone wherever their circle of influence is. You set an optimistic, hopeful tone that literally changed the energy of our soul as a nation. I am fully aware not everyone holds this viewpoint, but I know it to be true for me.
I remember you made an announcement on your first Martin Luther King Day as President to all Americans to do what you can to help others in honor of his legacy. I had the day off work with my kids and I decided to give them each some money, take them to the grocery store and have them choose items to donate to the food shelf. It was a successful trip, except they kept loudly yelling from the aisles, “Do you think poor people eat noodles?” Here is a picture from that day inspired by you.
I want you to know I was listening. I heard you. I felt your heart. I know your decision to reform health care was in part inspired, by watching your beloved Mother die of cancer and worry about medical bills. I know you felt others pain as if it was your own. I could see your tears for the victims of Sandy Hook were real. You know parents walk around with their hearts outside of their bodies. I could see your courage. I could sense your peace despite the chaos. I could feel your decisions were based on values. I could see you cared. I could see you gave great thought to how your decisions would affect real people, real lives. I want you to know I noticed. Your leadership made me feel safe. I will miss that so much.
I think your greatest legacy will be the way you honored your wife and daughters. You showed the world what is possible for husbands, and fathers. The pride you have for your family is so honorable and unique, it has been stamped on my heart. The way you honored those who worked closest with you, for example, Joe Biden is another reason I admire you so. It is not common for leaders, especially men, to model such open, and heartfelt love for friends and co-workers and the way you both publicly expressed admiration was trailblazing and I hope it gives others the courage to be so vulnerable.
Thank you from every ounce of my being. I pray for you and your beautiful family. I selfishly weep to have you no longer be my President, but I am so happy for you. You must feel weary and frustrated, but as always you do what is best for us. I will miss that the most. I hope you can rest. As I reflect on the transition, the Cinderella song, “Don’t Know What You Got (‘til it’s Gone)” has been running through my mind. I want you to know, I always knew. I tried not to take you for granted, but I am afraid at times, I may have.
May God, bless you and may God bless the United States of America. Please give me the audacity to continue to be as hopeful as you are.
With Heartfelt Love and Gratitude,