Do you mind if I call you Barack? I feel like we’ve been through so much together that calling you Mr. President seems trite. It’s been a very interesting eight years for both of us, and I can’t believe that our time together is over. To say that I’m going to miss you is beyond an understatement. If I were standing next to you, I would throw my arms around your legs and beg you not to leave. But I have to be an adult about this and let you go, no matter how much I don’t want to. I know that you’re ready to move on, and I can’t fault you for that. You deserve some peace now.
I graduated from college in May 2008 with a lot of debt and dashed hopes. The recession had begun in those weeks leading up to graduation, so when I got back home it was impossible to find a job. I was looking for a savior. When you received the Democratic nomination, I felt relief. When you said “Yes, we can,” I believed it. You were the savior I was looking for.
I proudly went into the booth to vote for you. Standing there in that school gym with my mother, my heart swelled with pride. I had voted for a man who was poised to be the first black president of the United States. If I’m being completely honest, I thought I’d have grandkids before I got to do that. Seeing you step out onto the stage in Chicago with Michelle, Sasha, and Malia made me cry. I cried again sitting on my couch on a cold day in January watching you take the oath of office. I cried even harder that night watching you and Michelle dance to “At Last.”
You stood tall in the face of a nation who wanted you to fail. You held your ground when a mob, led by our now president-elect, insinuated that because your father was from Kenya and your middle name is Hussein that you couldn’t possibly be American. You and Michelle always had such poise, like two regal swans, letting the hate flow off your backs like water. Whenever the haters come for me, I ask myself WWOD (What Would Obama Do)? And I just let it slide. You had to figure out how to get the country back on her feet. You had to figure out how to stimulate the economy (I still wish you had bailed out student loan debt instead of the banks, but I imagine Congress was like, “Eff those kids!”).
Slowly things started to turn around. I found a job, but I had to give up on being a working actor because I never had the time and energy to do both, and I was trying to make enough money to pay off my debt. I remember being at work the night the Navy Seals got Bin Laden. As a New Yorker, that was especially gratifying. I think that’s when the tide really started to turn for you. You hit your stride, and we all felt it. When the 2012 election came, I knew there was no way that you would lose. The Republicans tried to throw you with Romney standing on those Republican “family values,” abortion, and marriage between a man and a woman, but we were stronger than that. I was at work watching the numbers come in, feeling relieved when my new home state of California clinched it for you. I opened the good bottle of wine to celebrate.
The last four years have been epic for you. I feel like we’ve cried a lot together. Mourning school shootings, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown. I don’t know how many times you could have tried to tell all the white people that they needed to stop killing our people. Maybe they were taking their ire with you out on our innocent brothers and sisters.
But we had some good tears too. I was so happy when you finally announced the Affordable Care Act. It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction. And I wept when you finally announced marriage equality had been won. Knowing that all of my friends could get married made adulthood so real. Through it all, you always stood with poise and strength. Even during the bad times, I knew that you could handle it. I never lost my faith in you.
Thank you for celebrating the arts and bringing music and culture to the White House. You always threw a hell of a party, and you were never afraid to cut loose and dance (or sing!). Thank you for giving Lin Manuel Miranda a platform to perform the early utterings of Hamilton, because frankly, we needed it. Thank you for always recognizing black folks in the arts and giving them a place to feel fulfilled.
Most importantly, thank you for being a present and loving husband and father, despite everything you had to deal with. Seeing the way you love Michelle so openly and freely made many realize that that is what a relationship is supposed to be. Watching you talk about your daughters, the way you were constantly awed and inspired by them, made me want to be a better parent.
I now have a son, you two have some things in common. He, like you is mixed-race, except his father is white and his mother is black. Just as you were, he’s being raised by a single mom, and he, too, has a close relationship with his maternal grandmother. You understand some of the challenges that he will face growing up. He won’t remember your presidency, but I cannot wait to tell him that if you could do it, so can he. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
All of my love and admiration,