Dear President Obama,
There is less than a week left until you pass the torch to your successor. I can only imagine the mixed feelings you must have at this juncture. I write this letter because I wanted to take a moment to let you know that I, for one, greatly appreciate all that you have done for this nation. You have accomplished much in your eight years in office, especially considering that throughout your tenure, you have had very little cooperation from the people in Congress or the American public as a whole.
January 20th, 2009 … a date I remember well. I watched the inauguration with tears of joy! Finally, I thought, the nation has put aside its collective racist mentality and made a stand for equality. Your inauguration was one of the most-observed events ever by the global audience, and I was so proud of our nation on that day. My tears were tears of joy until the news came that Senator Ted Kennedy had suffered a seizure and collapsed during the inaugural luncheon. He would die a short seven months later, but I believe one of the proudest moments of his life was being at your inauguration.
Arguably your greatest achievement domestically was the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which helped some 20 million people have access to basic healthcare. Despite the complaints of some, there can be no doubt that this was a great accomplishment by almost any standards.
As noted, you took office during a particularly difficult time economically, and during your eight years, you have added 10.7 million jobs and lowered the unemployment rate to under 5%!
You have done much to make not only the United States, but the entire globe a healthier place with a brighter future in terms of the environment. Though our nation seems to have more than our share of naysayers, scientists have proven that the environment is in danger and that mankind has contributed to that danger. You believed, and you took steps to help our nation be part of the solution.
I remember the sudden chill, then tears when, on the night of 02 May 2011, my friend Jerry called and told me to turn on the television immediately, and I heard you speak these words:
“Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.”
Your quiet perseverance made the world a little bit safer that night, and I wished then that I could hug you and say “thank you, Mr. President”.
Throughout your tenure you have been a champion for many of the causes I strongly believe in: LGBT rights, voting rights, women’s equality, environmental reform, land and wildlife preservation, immigration and immigrants’ rights, gun regulation, affordable healthcare for all, and much more too numerous to list here. But the respect that I have for you goes deeper than policies and political actions … it is about the core values you and your family have brought to the White House and thus to our nation.
You and Michelle have brought dignity and grace to the highest office in the nation, a dignity that has been lacking for many decades. There has been no breath of scandal, no illicit affairs or inappropriate behaviour. You have successfully kept your children out of the limelight and allowed them to grow into the young women they are becoming. I have so often smiled or laughed watching you and Michelle interact, whether dancing together or merely sharing a moment, a bit of conversation. Michelle has been exactly what a First Lady should be … passionate about family issues, women’s rights, and yet quietly dignified and always a lady of grace. You have been soft-spoken, compassionate, and a beacon of hope for so many of us.
Perhaps Chicago Tribune reporter Rex Hoppke said it best: “President Barack Obama is a good and decent man.” You are, indeed, a good and decent man. You and Michelle are both role models I would be happy to see my grandchildren follow. I will be deeply saddened … am deeply saddened … to see you leave the White House. I think it will be many decades before we see a return to the values you have brought to the nation, if ever. As you return to private life, I wish you and Michelle, Malia and Sasha, the very best that life has to offer. I hope that you can find peace, and take pride in knowing that what you gave this nation was appreciated by the often-silent majority, if not the more vocal minority. Today, the United States of America is a better place because of the values, hard work, ethics, intelligence, and respect you gave us. Thank you, Mr. President.
Jill E. Dennison