Dear Mr. President,
Let me begin by saying the two words you deserve to hear cross the lips of every American citizen, whether they know it or not:
Thank you for the tireless work you have done and the many sacrifices you have made on behalf of our country.
Thank you for the dignity, grace, class and gravitas with which you have held our nation’s highest office.
Thank you for not eschewing facts, science, logic, reason, and your own superior intellect in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
Thank you for your willingness and ability to endure the disgusting hatred and racism that throughout your presidency have been directed at you, at our amazing First Lady, and at your beautiful family as a whole. The most naive among us — myself included — were hopeful your historic election was a sign that the racial divides in our country had become less pervasive than is actually the case. Your presidency has been, and forever shall remain, a major step toward that goal, but many of us underestimated just how loud, ugly, desperate and energized the filth among us would become when faced with the reality of the more equitable, more inclusive, more compassionate society that your presidency has represented.
The pride and patriotism I felt when you were elected, and again on the day you took office, remain unmatched. Other than my time in uniform, I have never been more proud to be an American than I was when you became my president.
And then, I failed you.
I was an outspoken supporter during both of your presidential runs, and I contributed what little cash I could here and there throughout your campaigns. Once you were in office, however, my position could best be summed up as: “He’s got this.”
“He’s got this” was a cop out. “He’s got this” was my epic failure to be the citizen you deserved. “He’s got this” earned us the predicament in which we now find ourselves.
I have, in recent years, heard some of my fellow progressives complain that much of the change you so sincerely and hopefully promised during your first presidential campaign has not been realized, and that this failure is yours. It is not. It is mine. It is ours … the millions of us who voted for you, who placed upon you the expectation that you would fight for us … and who then failed to fight alongside you.
When then-Speaker of the House John Boehner (whose name you so kindly pretended should be pronounced “Bay-ner”) said of your political agenda, “We’re going to do everything — and I mean everything — we can do to kill it, stop it, slow it down, whatever we can” … I was furious. When then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that “the single most important thing” he and his shamefully selfish Republican party wanted to achieve was not to help the American people, but to instead make sure you were “a one-term president,” I was disgusted.
But also? I was busy. I had a job and a wife and two little kids and, hey, “He’s got this.” Besides, what could I do, really?
For seven of the eight years during which you have been our president, I have lived in Pennsylvania. Not until this month have I known the names of both of my U.S. senators, nor that of my House Rep. Not once during your presidency did I contact their offices. Not once did I do much more than simply cast a vote for you and then say “He’s got this.”
Mr. President, please accept my apology for not doing more to support you during your time in office. You gave me an opportunity to make the most of your presidency, and I wasted it.
As I watched you speak in Chicago the other night, I was filled with emotion. I, of course, was reminded of that November night when you strode onto a similar stage after winning the presidency in what can legitimately be described as a landslide. The emotions that flooded me then were pride and hope and happiness. The emotions that flooded me this time were gratitude and regret and sorrow. Gratitude for all you’ve done for us. Regret for not doing more in my role as a citizen when you needed me most, and for not better appreciating just how lucky we were to have you. Sorrow for how horribly wrong things have gone.
And yet, despite the fact that I and so many others have failed to be the citizens you deserved, you still spoke to us with the same fire and conviction and hopeful optimism that define you. You still inspired me. You still, at the end of eight often-frustrating years in the White House, believe that we who fell so woefully short of our commitment to you are capable of making right that which we’ve allowed to go so wrong.
Thank you for everything. My last ask is the same as my first. I’m asking you to believe—not in my ability to create change, but in yours.
— President Obama (@POTUS) January 11, 2017
Mr. President, thank you for not losing faith in me, despite my having given you every reason to do so. Thank you for continuing to believe that I can be the citizen you deserved while in office.
This is a picture of a letter I received last week from my Republican congressional representative. It is his response to my inquiry regarding the Republicans’ secret vote for a planned amendment to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics (which, I was pleasantly surprised to learn, he voted against). In the wake of that secret vote, and on the heels of last November’s disastrous election outcome, I and others like me finally found our voices. We flooded our representatives’ phone lines and inboxes with our fury and discontent … and the Republicans were forced to back down.
That small victory has given me and others a taste of what we can accomplish when we organize and engage in the political process. That small victory is an example of what you had hoped we’d do while you were our president. I apologize for not doing it sooner.
You deserved to go out on a much higher note than the one now playing, and I believe it is more our fault than yours. And for that, I am sorry.
Mr. President, thank you again for all you’ve done. Now it’s our turn.
We’ve got this.