Mr. and Mrs. Obama,
Let me begin by apologizing for the (more-than) slightly-off wax figures of yourselves I deemed appropriate to use as the lead on this post. You are more handsome and beautiful than the janky Niagara Falls wax museum could ever capture.
In so many ways, I feel like I was a different person when you took office. I was newly-21, still in college, still living at home, still without a single political view of my own. I was excited for our first black president, though, and I knew that change was something good, something to be embraced.
I had no idea how much my life could change in eight years.
Over the course of your presidency, I have come into my own, as the expression goes. I graduated with a BA, found my passions in writing and photography, traveled, fell in love, got married, bought a house, and realized that I can, at 29, finally claim to feel moderately successful.
As I sit here, on your last day in office, those milestones feel pretty damn insignificant compared to the changes you have inspired in my beliefs, self-esteem, and world view.
All three of those changes are huge and beautiful, but I want to especially focus on what you have done for my self-esteem. Michelle, I’m specifically looking at you here. I was a little too young (and too influenced by my parents) to really tune in to the things Hillary said and did while she was First Lady, and the Bush wives seemed too inaccessible to child and then teenage me. But you, Michelle. You changed the whole damn game.
You taught me that it’s okay (and important) to be unapologetically myself. To embrace what makes me the woman I am, and in turn, to embrace the people around me. With more than a little help from my very smart friends, you encouraged me to educate myself on the issues of feminism, social injustice, and equality. You have exuded the sort of grace and class I try to emulate as I interact with my friends, family, and strangers alike. You have given me more than you’ll ever know, and I know I’m not alone in wishing I could someday express my gratitude.
Now, Barack. The ways that you changed my life are more subtle and nuanced than Michelle. Behind the pride in my womanhood is a quieter force, one that I hope attempts to mirror the unwavering calm you have used to lead our country. Even if I hadn’t found that I agree with your politics, I would still hold all the respect in the world for you because it’s been apparent since day one that you have respected all of us. I never saw that in a politician before, and I hope that’s something we’ll see more of in the future.
When you leave the White House tomorrow, I will be sad. There’s no way around that. I’m disappointed by how the election turned out and I am scared for what the future holds. But, I am full of pride because of you. You have both made me so, so proud to be a woman in the 21st century.
Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.