Dear President Obama,
I know a part of you is probably looking forward to January 20. You’ve done the most exhausting job in the world for 8 years and you’ll finally have a chance to rest. A goodly portion of yourself– and myself, if I’m honest– is also probably dreading the day. The transition from ‘leader of the free world’ to ‘ex-president’ must be a strange one under any circumstances. How much stranger is it this year? How hard must it be to voluntarily give up the reins of power when no one can do more than guess at what a Trump presidency is going to mean for– and do to– this country?
I respect you all the more for handling the transition like an adult, though. I haven’t always agreed with you or your policies, but I have always appreciated the maturity you brought to the Oval Office. I thought it was a much needed commodity after the W. Bush years, a time when most Executive officials spoke to the American people like they were children asking annoying questions and when the Executive himself talked to the people and the press like a frat boy being forced to apologize for breaking the world economy.
God, how I’ll miss those days.
I voted for you twice. Some would take issue with this, but you did a lot of uniting. Not just our first black president but our first nerd president; hip-hop fans, comic book fans, and even basketball fans could all relate to you. You bridged the gap between jocks and nerds in your own person, and looked good doing it. You worked hard, but when you decided to meet with celebrities or with little kids dressed as Spider-Man you were obviously having a blast. You were a complete human being throughout your presidency and, even though you’re hardly universally beloved, I think you raised the standard there. Your successors might find themselves trying a little bit harder to be a little bit cooler as a result. Cooler in a “be nice to kids and old people” way. That makes me smile.
One of the true landmark moments from your first campaign was when you spoke to the American people about race. You talked to us not just like an adult, but like we were also adults. Thank you for that. You briefly elevated the discussion, changed what was possible if only for a little while. It was up to the rest of the nation to take the cue after that. I feel like we missed our cue, missed a lot of opportunities. I’m not surprised that things didn’t go perfectly, though, just a bit wistful.
I think people will remember your achievements… you know, eventually. I think historians will look back on your record of domestic success favorably. You successfully reformed the nation’s health care system– not perfectly, but successfully. My wife’s a policy expert and more than once she’s told me that the ACA (Obamacare, if you must) will probably survive as long as the pharmaceutical and insurance lobby wants it to survive. Big institutions don’t like big chaos; she’s right that it will probably outlive the 2-4 years I figure Trump will stay in office.
You and your right hand, Hilary Rodham, oversaw the death of Osama bin Laden, one of America’s greatest enemies. Mixed feelings about political assassinations aside, this was clearly a substantial victory, one that few could gainsay. That’s why your detractors generally forget about it, along with how your policies pulled us back from the brink of economic collapse. You spent 8 years trying to do the best things for this country, trying to pull it out of a hole that had taken 8 years of deregulation to dig, and trying to make sensible, fact-based decisions that would help Americans. And getting yelled at about imaginary attempts to take away people’s guns.
And now all I hear is that we’re now in a “post-fact” era.
Eras don’t last forever and some are remarkably short. Gone is the era of iPods, of landlines, of Disco Stu memes and all your base belonging to us. This whole “post-fact” thing might be more of a trend, we might be in more of a “post-Pokemon” era.
I think actions, words, and even morality have to be based on facts to mean anything. So… here’s hoping?
Even if the past 8 years had gone perfectly we’d probably be exactly where we are today. But I’m glad you were my president. You brought competence back to the White House; in spite of intransigent legislatures you tried to focus on real problems. Even when I didn’t agree with your solutions, I at least agreed that ISIS and the healthcare crisis were real problems endangering and harming Americans. You didn’t get bogged down in the endless nonsense that your Congress lived and breathed. As often as possible you rose above it.
You were a winner. Based on the recent Electoral College outcome– though not the popular vote— we got tired of winning. But I never saw you lose, sir. And yes, I would have preferred fewer drone strikes. I would have preferred a harder line with Syria, with Russia. I would have preferred no prison in Guantanamo. Most of all, I preferred an executive who made hard decisions and cared about the results but wasn’t destroyed by them. That’s what I got. Thanks Obama!