My President is Black,
My Lambo’s blue,
And I’ll be goddamn if my rims ain’t too.
– Young Jeezy: My President, 2008
Dear President Obama,
First, let me admit that My President is the only Young Jeezy song I know, and I really only care about it for the verse above. You probably prefer the music – and company – of Jay-Z and Beyoncé, but you have to admit, that song was pretty awesome in 2008.
I was 17 years old on November 4, 2008, when you took the stage at Grant Park to deliver one of the most transcendent speeches in American History. Truth be told, I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to vote for you because I was born 294 days late. Instead, I volunteered as a precinct worker for that historic election just so that I could say I had a front row seat to history in my own little way.
I’ve followed your journey very closely over the years: your 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention, the endless debates with then-Senators Clinton, Edwards, and Biden, and eventually your contest against Sen. McCain. I watched as you saved the country from another Great Depression, rescued the auto industry, signed crucial banking regulations, fought for marriage equality, restored diplomatic ties with Cuba, and lead the Paris Climate Agreement negotiations, just to name a few. In the face of high odds and even higher expectations, you achieved more than anyone has ever given you credit for.
But years from now, when future generations ask why I admired you so much, I’ll tell them, “It’s because President Obama CARED.” You CARED to provide 20 million people with health coverage. You CARED to ensure that seniors had access to medication and health care they desperately needed. You CARED to defend the rights of individuals with pre-existing conditions. You CARED to allow young people to stay on their parents’ plans until the age of 26. You CARED to prevent women from being charged more than men for the same services. You CARED to fight for health care as a fundamental human right. In everything you’ve done, but especially reforming health care, you’ve CARED so deeply about America.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to describe what you’ve meant to my life. You modeled steady, civil leadership in the face of sickening racism and hatred – and you looked cool doing it. Every time they tried to mock and jeer, you’d brush your shoulders off, crack a funny joke, then hit them with a jump shot – and yes, it meant a lot to me that my president had a jump shot. In my personal moments of insecurity and fear as a young man of color, I’ve looked to you on how to handle trials and tribulations. Although I’m not always successful, I’ve always tried to project that same poise and finesse during tough moments.
On top of that, you gave us the perfect example of what it meant to put family first. That you could be such a loving husband and father, while confronting the world’s greatest challenges, speaks volumes about your unshakeable optimism and hope. Even if we didn’t always agree with you, we were in love with your family, especially the incomparable First Lady. Your love set such a high bar that I’ve adopted the motto: If it’s not that “Barack-and-Michelle” type love, I don’t want it. As a president, and as a father and husband, your example has meant the world to me and so many others.
There will come a time when you will be judged for your successes and failures; but for now, I’ll yearn for the days when I was 17, counting the precinct ballots for the election you had already won. I’ll reminisce for the days of “Hope and Change,” and “Yes We Can.” You represented the very best America had to offer at a time when we didn’t deserve your leadership and grace. My generation and the nation will be forever in your debt. Thank you for inspiring us beyond measure. Your legacy will live on in every person you CARED for, and in every leader who dares to believe in the impossible.
Thank you – for believing in me, and for making me believe in myself. Yes I Can. Yes We Can. Yes We Will.
Very truly yours,