I am 32 years old and don't think I've ever penned a letter to a political figure. Santa Claus, sure, but the President? Mayor? State senator? Never.
To be honest, it is not that I haven't cared. It's just that I haven't felt enough passion in contrasting boldness to what the actions or rumors of my politicians have shown. And maybe I never believed my letter would make a difference. I learned in Mrs Castleberry's eighth grade debate class that words are a powerful thing. And that convincing a mind change in someone you consider to be an opposite thinker is even greater a task.
And as such, you probably won't read this anyway.
But I'm writing it. Because I want my kids to know how I feel about you--the man who lead our country through the most formative of my young adult years. And I want to prove to myself that I was wrong.
You see, Mr President. I didn't vote for you. If I'm honest with the world, I think I forgot to vote in that last 2012 election. I was elbow-deep in delivering babies & working 70+ hours per week suturing & studying & not-sleeping. The year you won the last election was the year that my Hospitals' management changed. It was the year that made me a mother. The year my marriage was sprayed by the unexpected poison of depression. The year my husband said goodbye to half a decade of service in the Army & hung up his maroon beret forever. Two-thousand-twelve was the year he had knee surgery, I had my first cavity filled, & the year America welcomed you back for another 4 years.
I must say, Mr President, that I wasn't sure about the country's choice. You seemed to have proven yourself despite the media feeding us doubt, apprehension, & disbelieving statements about where you came from, who you were, &all the things you would (or wouldn't) manage to do in office. The crop of bumper stickers about "keeping the change" from 2008 that had been stuck on metal and glass and minds were faded and peeling. The country was finally rebounding from the market crash where we, as a young 20-something couple, lost almost half of our meager investments. You and the First Lady had appeared on SNL, Facebook, & even the occasional talk show. You had handled the protestors, the rally's, & the beginning bloom of racial throttle with what appeared to be well-intentioned action. Mrs Obama's toned arms continued to be the subject of focus in the tabloids & popular news magazines. And although I'm not sure on the timeline, I do remember that you had successfully quit smoking. Things--life In the United States of America--finally felt stable again.
Stable, that is, for me.
I've asked hundreds of patients who our President is in the process of testing mental acuity & orientation. And I've gotten a variety of colorful (& hilarious) answers. Jesus. Nixon. Reagan. Princess Diana. Bart Simpson. And you, Sir, "Obama". But I must admit that me talking about my patients & my work week & my marriage all point to who I am, where I know I stand in the complex web of race & gender & privilege in not only this Country, but also in this World.
I am a Doctorate-educated white, married, middle class woman living in a semi-rural town in one of the most privileged countries in the world. I have not skipped dinner involuntarily this month. I have never been without health insurance, $100 in my bank account, mostly white teeth, or shoes on my feet. And I am well aware that even the fact that I can use words like "investments" or "work" or "cavity" makes me one of the wealthiest people in the World's greater populace & assumes that I have the pennies to stow away, the employment to help support my family, & preventative healthcare. I am immensely lucky.
Months ago I told myself I was not going to talk about the most recent election. I am not writing about repealing the vote, recounting the absentee ballots, or rescinding the position of the upcoming President of the United States. I am not writing to disagree with policy or nitpick your vacation time or comment on the great debates that are fired up all over the country in streets & homes & hearts.
I am writing, Mr President, to thank you.
My skepticism of your leadership was wrong. My judgement of your character biased, influenced by the easy media sources around me, by my inaccurate funneling of politics through my religious beliefs, and by my preconceived notions of what I thought our country needed.
And I was wrong about you.
I come from a personal conviction that demands that my heart be free of guilt. So for my ungrounded judgement, bias with lack of full knowledge, & even for my own pride, I am asking for forgiveness.
I'm not even sure I could pinpoint all my inaccuracies. Nor would I expect the same from you. In my daily job, when I make mistakes, lives are on the line--the breath & body & being of people are what I handle. And this, we have in common. The magnitude of your decision, the weight of your work, however, is incomprehensibly larger, more public, more dissected than I ever hope mine to be.
And you've handled the job with suave, grace, & poise.
You haven't micromanaged my life--which if I'm honest with you, my young 24 year old brain expected of a new president in 2008. Finally outside the roof of my parents & the guise of college as "real life", I had convinced myself that your role was altruistic, telling me who I could love, pinpointing both child rearing theories & the content of school lunches. From what laundry detergent to buy to how much to spend on my next car, I made your role bigger than it was meant to be. And possibly like many others across the country, falsely believed that your power forcibly extended beyond policy about housing & healthcare and somehow had the uncanny ability to make unwelcome changes in my home & in my heart . "News" is a big category & a quick swim in the great Internet Ocean left me weighted by all sorts of opinions about you, your opinions, & your then-to-do list.
And that "Change" you promised? Some of it has come alive--my own citizen mind completely unaware of the hours & days & piles of paperwork it took to instate things like the ACA, the healthcare exchange, or the closure of Afghani occupation. I have an opinion about most of the changes that have happened--both initiated from your desk & from the hand that time has dealt. We still don't agree on a lot of things, Mr President. And some of my reasons for not voting for you originally still stand--big debate topics for which this is not the time nor the platform. The beauty of this country is that I can still hold my opinion, and that despite your leadership & title & privilege, we have the right to disagree.
For all the things, Sir, that we don't agree on, I must tell you--THANK YOU--reminding myself & my fellow citizens that there are some things that should know no political party nor be ignored in any role of leadership. Some things are worth banding together for. Things like love, equality, children, balance, health, access to vaccinations & bandaids & preventative examinations. Things like peace, justice, food, the right to Worship, & attention to the underprivileged. Though the details of your fight and my fight have been & will continue to look different for each of these cornerstones, the contrast in our beliefs makes me grateful that you've stood for them at all.
Two weeks ago on the Eve of Halloween, I saw photos of the White House Halloween Party. I stayed up late browsing Facebook, munching on candy I stole from the loot of Thor & a Butterfly Princess that were, by then, sound asleep upstairs. And I was grateful for you & for your family.
And this past Tuesday, when it seems the hearts & hopes of half the country broke or shattered, I am still grateful for you & for your family.
From one gender to another, from a white to a black, from a mother to father, a small town girl to a big city man, thank you. Thank you for reaching out to your citizens, for bridging the gap in Elitist leadership, for inviting the world changers & policy makers & trick-or-treaters & unfortunate grievers on to the lawn of the White House. Thank you for hugging. And for hosting. And for proving me wrong in character & in compassion.
You will be missed Mr President.
And if you ever find yourself in Central Washington, know that there will be a lawn who welcomes you & your family. And there will be two adults & three Dinosaur-loving kids eager to welcome you inside--without regard for religious differences or political party or personal beliefs. Not only because you served as our President, Sir, but because you are human. For as much as our human nature resists a change from the comfortable, change is exactly what you've brought. And sometimes we all need a bit of the unexpected.