Recently, The New York Times asked its readers to reflect upon President Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House. Motivated participants were encouraged to write letters regarding what they will remember most about President Obama’s historic role. Despite the unlikely chance of being published, I jumped at the occasion to praise our Commander in Chief.
Unfortunately, as predicted, my letter wasn’t chosen, but I can’t sit back and watch this “peaceful transition of power” unfold without sharing my thoughts on the current administration. Here’s my submission:
For many, strength can be defined by how well someone conceals his or her emotions. Crying indicates an underlying weakness. But, as President Barack Obama addressed the country after the Sandy Hook shooting, periodically pausing to wipe his eyes on national television, each tear demonstrated that true strength comes from loving your fellow man, especially during their time of need. His mouth may have been moving, but it was his heart that spoke that day.
George Washington will forever be the “Father of our Country” in the historical sense, of course, but in that moment President Obama became the father figure of our generation, for his composure and compassion pulled our entire nation through one of the darkest days since September 11.
His fatherly persona extends well beyond his comforting capabilities, however, as our pun-loving president takes pride in his “dad joke” tendencies. Personally, I’m honored to say he’s the first president I had the privilege of voting for, but I’m afraid we’ll never have another Commander in Chief who exhibits the same genuine love for humanity. He certainly embodies an innate zest for life, but his successors? Well, they are bound to be lemons.
Readers were limited to 200 words, but after eight years under the guidance of both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, words are simultaneously abundant and absent. It’s truly impossible to deliver an adequate ‘thank you’ when you consider what these gentlemen and their families have done, and will likely continue to do, for the United States of America.
Beyond the professional and the political, Obama and Biden make their work personal. Through their efforts to ensure policies reflect a government that’s run by the people and for the people, Obama and Biden repeatedly prove that they’re with the people, too. Their love for America cannot be feigned, for it shines bright in their affinity for children and their gratitude toward our troops. But most of all, love for their country comes through in the friendship they’ve nurtured during their time in office.
While President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama taught us the importance of partnership in both marriage and parenting, Vice President Biden showed us how to smile despite immense grief. From these foundations, our two exceptional leaders forged a bond that goes far beyond the scope of past presidential partnerships. They’re more than friends—they’re brothers. Yes, the Internet loves to poke fun at their so-called bromance. (There are enough memes floating around the Web to carry us all for another four years!) But, underneath all the jokes, we can see that they made our nation better just by loving each other.
We’ve seen them laugh together and cry together. Heck, we have even seen them eat ice cream together. Nevertheless, nothing will ever compare to President Obama’s parting gesture. When Obama surprised Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, it was hard not to cry right along with them—not only because of the meaning behind the honor, but also because this ceremony served as one somber, sweet farewell to the administration overall.
(Watch the highlights of Obama’s announcement below, or watch the entire ceremony here.)
No administration will ever be able to replicate their devotion to the people, and their exit hurts more than any other transition because, for nearly a decade, they have been much more than the figureheads of our democracy. Through humor and honesty, Obama and Biden have become family—the father and uncle we can all depend upon when life gets rough.
Luckily for us, they aren’t simply characters on some TV show that’s been cancelled. They’re real, live human beings! Thus, while they won’t be at the center of our government anymore, they will still have the ability to empower citizens and inspire change. I’m curious to see how Obama and Biden will put their experiences to use in the coming years. I’m eager to watch First Lady Michelle Obama take her current initiatives to the next level. I’m excited to see what Malia and Sasha will accomplish as they emerge into this brave new world.
But, above all else, I’m incredibly grateful that President Obama and Vice President were part of our lives, even if only for a short time. They taught us how to feel and they taught us how to fight. They taught us that love trumps hate. Despite the current state of affairs, I hope their words and actions will echo throughout the White House, Congress, and the country for decades to come.