Dear Mr. President,
My name is Emily and I am a 24-year-old “adult” in the beautiful city of Boston. It feels a little silly to be writing to a man who is so busy, but hopefully by the time this reaches you things will have slowed down a bit…or maybe, just maybe, we will get to have this conversation in person someday. I just couldn’t let you get too far from the White House without thanking you.
I was 16 when you were elected. I remember watching with my dad – unable to understand the political intricacies, but fully understanding that history was being made in a big, big way. As a mixed-race high school student in a predominantly white town, I remember how incredible it felt. I mean, it felt SO cool to see someone who looked like me earn the most powerful position in the world. Of course, I had role models like our girl Beyoncé, but you…you were different. I’ll never forget that feeling of pride. Thank you for making me proud of who I am.
I was 20 when you ran for reelection. At this age, I still wasn’t very into politics but being able to vote for the first time ever, I was so excited to vote for you. By this time, I knew what you stood for and could really appreciate your progressive campaign. You encouraged hope and optimism and it made me so eager to exercise my right to vote for the first time, and to exercise it for you. Thank you for being my first, and most sincere vote.
One day after my 21st birthday, terror struck Boston. I was away at college, but I remember the details of that day and the days that followed in vivid, slow motion. First came the shock, then the crying, then the fear. It is absolutely terrifying for this to happen anywhere, but for the first time in my lifetime it was close to home, and it hurt. I didn’t know how to feel. Then came you. I remember watching you speak with such calm empathy and compassion and all of my fears disappeared. You said we would rebuild. You said we would come back stronger than ever…and I believed you. At that moment, your compassion was exactly what I needed. It wasn’t the first, and wouldn’t be the last time I would look to you for how to react to a situation. Thank you for easing my fears, and for teaching me to react with love, with hope, and with confidence to keep moving forward.
I was 22 when my grandfather, one of my best friends, passed away. Mr. Obama, you would have loved him. In his 86 years of life, you and I can only imagine the things he went through as a black man. He prevailed, though, in the most glorious of ways. He was an activist in the community and accomplished so much. It hurts me to think about how he would feel about our next leader, so instead I try to think about how proud he was of you. Thank you for being his final president, a true symbol of everything he worked so hard for.
Here I am at age 24, and I am so blessed that for 1/3 of my life I have had such confidence in and admiration for the leader of my country. I can’t say the same for what is to come, but you told us not to be afraid. “Be vigilant”, you said, “but do not be afraid”. You told us to show up and stand up for what is right. I will do that for you because that is what you did for us.
When I think of you, I think of class. I think of unwavering grace in the toughest of situations. When I think of you, I think of hope.
Thank you, Mr. Obama. You will always have my vote.