Dear President Obama,
I must start this letter with a confession.
I did not vote for you. Either time. We have some distinct political and policy differences, for sure, but I firmly believe that people can disagree and still be respectful and kind. So with that in mind, I hope you’ll stick with me to the end of this letter.
Eight years ago, I also didn’t celebrate the fact that you were our first black president. I didn’t see it as a unexpected milestone. I had always believed that black or white, male or female, whatever your background, one could achieve whatever they worked for in this country. So at the time, it didn’t feel momentous to me to have a president of color.
But I’ve been on an interesting journey over the last few years regarding race in the United States and in our lives in particular. That journey is not, as some would assume, as a mom to biracial children and as a white wife to a black man.
But my journey has been as a Christian.
What is my role, as a Christian, in the racial tension and inequality that still exists in our country?
Is it simply to love my neighbor and ignore the bigger picture and the statistics that very clearly indicate longstanding problems in our country? Or does doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God (Micah 6:8) require something more of me?
And on a day like today, what might Dr. King expect from someone like me?
I think the white community is very good at remembering Dr. King as a “peaceful” leader, but ignoring the fact that he was arrested 30 times. We get in a tizzy over Colin Kaepernick kneeling in peaceful protest, but then what protest is acceptable?
It took patient and godly friends to open my eyes to what Jesus’ work really looks like in caring about the marginalized and oppressed, whether they are white, black, Mexican, Syrian, Muslim, free, imprisoned, orphaned, homeless, liberal, conservative, wealthy, or on welfare. I believe that your presidency tried to do that for many as well. And I mourn that more Americans, but especially that more Christians, can’t come together and acknowledge the noble efforts on both sides of the aisle to pursue this worthwhile goal, although our methods may differ.
So I could not pass by this day honoring the work and person of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and in the last week of your presidency, without this letter. And if your role in the history of our country was solely symbolic, as the first black president, this letter would end here. But no president can be just a symbol; there is always too much personality and policy that has affected our lives for the last four or eight years.
But when this week is over and there are no more bills to sign, no more state dinners to hold, and no more compromises to reach, you will return to a (more) private life. But I believe this country may still want more from you and your family, if you remain willing.
You will continue to hold a unique role in the ongoing story that is the United States of America.
And although our policy differences are not inconsequential, a philosophy that has always guided my politics has played out in today’s world:
It is better to disagree with an honorable person than to agree with a fool.
And while we might disagree on many points, you, Mr. President, have shown yourself to be an honorable person. I find myself grateful for many things about you as as a president, as a person, as a politician, as a husband, and as a father.
Thank you for being hopeful instead of bitter.
Thank you for being kind instead of vengeful.
Thank you for being optimistic.
Thank you for being decent.
Thank you for being funny.
Thank you for celebrating black America at your parties and events and before the eyes of many who can and do, by action or inaction, easily choose to live only in white America.
Thank you for rising above the tackiness and pettiness that so readily clothes many politicians.
Thank you for being an honorable and devoted husband and father, not only as a shining example in the presidential seat, but also as a strong, black man in a world filled with negative images seen by my children.
Thank you for the unique role you’ve played in the history of our country and in the lives of many. As with many other things, I wish Martin Luther King, Jr. had lived to work hand-in-hand with you and many others on the work still left to be done.
Thank you for having faith in our country’s ability to know better, to do better, and to be better.
May God go with you and your family as you create a new life outside of the White House.
Because people mean more than politics,
Be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss any of the 52 Letters. One just might be to you.
Previous letters include:
Last modified: December 31, 2017