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A President We Don’t Deserve

Photo by Pete Souza / White House

Photo by Pete Souza / The White House

In 2007, I sat on the phone with a loved one as he explained why he would be not be voting for Barack Obama. After we hung up, I cried the kind of tears that leave you gasping for breath. Maybe because I knew that underlying that vote was years of racial tension, small-town groupthink, and the kind of deep conservatism formed by religious ideology. It hurt to imagine he could be like those people who are so hell-bent on protecting their own interests that they could not be bothered to look out for the interests of others.

When Mr. Obama became president, I wept again. This time, it was standing out on the National Mall as frigid tears streamed down my face. It was a moment that felt like the start of everything, and I walked the 2 miles home, surrounded by throngs of people, feeling the same things.

It has been a long and contentious 8 years, but one that has manifested, if only in glimmers, all of the hope Mr. Obama foretold. In small, but meaningful ways, things are better for many people. Women, and those in the LGBT community, especially, but also the untold many without healthcare, 774 people who have been unfairly incarcerated, and the Supreme Court. Imagine what might have been possible if Congress had been a willing partner to this administration?

In my lifetime, I don’t know that I will ever feel this way about an election again. I worry that our current iteration of politics will discourage people from seeking office—but we need these people who understand the value of hope, of measured confidence, of an American dream that extends out like bright sunshine and warms us all.

There is so much more I could say about this moment in our history—including the exquisite benevolence of Michelle Obama—but there are others who have said it better than I ever could.

Thank you, Mr. Obama. We don’t deserve you.

Eight Years in America: Hope, and What Came After

“…No president since at least LBJ, and probably FDR, has arrived in Washington at a moment of greater historic urgency than Barack Obama. The man who took that oath of office seemed cut from American folklore — a neophyte politician elected senator only four years before, a prodigious and preacherly orator from the “Land of Lincoln” and the South Side of Chicago of the Great Migration. An embodiment not just of the American Dream as it had been imagined by the Greatest Generation of his own maternal grandparents but of a new version, too…” (New York Magazine)

My President Was Black

“It is said that Obama speaks “professorially,” a fact that understates the quickness and agility of his mind. Once, I watched him effortlessly reply to queries covering everything from electoral politics to the American economy to environmental policy. And then he turned to me. I thought of George Foreman, who once booked an exhibition with multiple opponents in which he pounded five straight journeymen—and I suddenly had some idea of how it felt to be the last of them.” (The Atlantic)

Moving Stars

“Of all the accomplishments of Michelle and Barack Obama, individually and together, this may be their greatest: They leave the White House not only strong, but actually stronger than when they entered. All visible evidence points to two people utterly centered, at perfect peace with themselves, each other and their place in history.” (The Morning News)

Now is the Greatest Time to Be Alive

“Given the chance to immerse myself in the possibility of interplanetary travel or join a deep-dive conversation on artificial intelligence, I’m going to say yes. I love this stuff. Always have.” (Wired)

Barack Obama and Doris Kerns Goodwin—The Ultimate Exit Interview

“Goodwin likes to tell the story of the day in the spring of 2007, when a young Illinois senator phoned her, out of the blue, requesting that they meet because he’d just finished reading Team of Rivals. That call would begin a friendship.” (Vanity Fair)

Obama After Dark

““Are you up?” The emails arrive late, often after 1 a.m., tapped out on a secure BlackBerry from an email address known only to a few. The weary recipients know that once again, the boss has not yet gone to bed.” (New York Times)

Obama’s Way

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” [Obama] said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” (Vanity Fair)

Photographing the Real Barack Obama

White House photographer Pete Souza has chronicled the most intimate, candid and comical moments of Barack Obama’s presidency. (The Guardian)

Michelle Obama: Hugger in Chief

“Hugging is how I connect to people–how I show warmth and make folks feel at home.” (White House)

Barack Obama: Dad in Chief

He particularly loves babies. (Buzzfeed)