A Letter to Obama (written in the last weeks of his presidency)
Dear President Obama,
I have been meaning to write this letter for eight years – sorry for the delay. I’ve been meaning to write and tell you how much you and Michelle have influenced my life.
I was six when 9/11 happened. One of our closest family friends worked in one of the towers. Thankfully, he had been late taking his kids to school and wasn’t at work, but we didn’t learn that he was safe for hours. One of my earliest, most vivid memories is of my mom crying in front of the television when I woke up to get ready for school. I remember she lit a Jewish prayer candle, so I knew something bad had happened (my family is not particularly religious). I was gifted with parents who never hid the truth from me. When I asked my Dad what had happened, he explained to me that there were some people, very angry people, who wanted to hurt American citizens and who wanted to scare us, but that I shouldn’t be scared because we had each other and we were strong.
9/11 shaped the way I viewed the world and who I wanted to be in it. As I grew up, I developed a love for history and languages, desiring to be able to understand other cultures and how we could work together. I became proud to be an American because of the melting pot I was taught that we are. However, growing up through the eight years of the George W. Bush presidency, I was also taught to be ashamed. I heard adults around me despairing over the war in Iraq, lamenting over the turmoil in Washington. But I remained hopeful.
In 2008 I first watched you speak at the Democratic National Convention and I felt that my hopefulness was being vindicated. I watched Michelle and was reminded that, as a woman, I am not limited by my gender. These past eight years, I have been so proud to call you my President and Michelle my First Lady.
Today, I am a graduate of Tufts University, one of the best schools in the world. I was told by my college counselor, who underestimated me, that I should not waste my time applying to such an institution. Little did she know that nothing makes me so determined as being underestimated. So I applied and got in. I graduated with a Political Science degree. I watched many of my friends who studied economics pursue torturous internships at investment banks along Wall Street, received phone calls from them of how they worked until three in the morning, not because the work demanded it but because you were expected to. That seemed very foolish to me. I instead applied for an internship with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, another position for which I was warned that I was not qualified. “They don’t usually take undergrads, you don’t have a law background,” I was told. I went in for an interview and explained that I had had the opportunity to meet with Justice Scalia when he was at Tufts the year before. My American Politics Professor had invited me to a dinner hosted by the President of Tufts to welcome Justice Scalia, a man whom I assumed I had nothing in common with. But when I met him, he was overwhelmingly warm and bracingly sharp, and I was once again reminded that America is great because we are different. I told this to the District Attorney’s office and explained how I had always felt a deep sense of obligation to do work that mattered, really truly mattered. I was hired later that week. At the end of that summer, I was asked to stay on, which I did until I graduated this past May.
A month after I turned 18, I voted for the first time in my life, and that vote was for you. I feel so privileged to have become an adult during your presidency. Because of the example that you and Michelle have set, I have never lost faith in what I can accomplish. I have retained my youthful optimism, my sense of wonder, and my determination to achieve any goals that I set. I have watched you both deliver eloquent, thoughtful speeches with dignity and grace. I have been continuously inspired by your words even in moments of doubt, and for that I am eternally grateful.
One day, I would love to make it to the White House. I used to think that dream was foolish and unrealistic, but because of you I realize that no dream is unattainable. You have reminded me that communication, empathy, and education will always serve me well, perhaps even well enough that I may one day work in Washington. If you never read this letter, I hope you at least feel the gratitude that I and millions of other citizens feel for you. If you do read this letter, I hope that it makes you smile and feel proud, as you have made me feel countless times.
Thank you for being my President and for helping make the world a better place. I hope many well-earned naps are in your future.
With the utmost respect and gratitude,