In January of 2009, I stood in the freezing cold on the National Mall among some of my high school peers and teachers. We were in a sea of hundreds of thousands, all who came from near and far just for you. I didn’t realize it at the moment, but I was witnessing the dreams of so many who look just like you—just like me—realized. You courageously campaigned and faced adversity simply for being who you are. You were challenged time and time again for your values, your policies, your ideas and, of course, your race. But you persevered.
At the inaugural podium, you brought with you one of the biggest ideas your message was built on. You brought hope. The same glass ceiling black people thought we could never get beyond, you shattered. I understood that I was seeing a glimpse of the nation that I, and so many hopeful black Americans before me and beside me, could prosper in. It was the silver lining we needed. It empowered me to stand not only behind you, as I knew the job as America’s first black president would only become more difficult, but right by your side, prepared to defend your legacy as you were mine.
For the first time in my life, my president was not a distant political entity that I couldn’t relate to. In fact, I felt so closely connected to you and your message that you became my family.
Like a devoted parent, you instilled in many of us the value of hard work, integrity, and promise. You taught us that regardless of wherever in the world we came from that we could be a unified collective working for the greater good. I watched you make mistakes and accept responsibility. The dignity you’ve shown through the toughest of times humanized you. I watched time take its toll on you physically, and at times worried about your well-being. Still, you prioritized your job and put first everyone else, regardless of whether or not they believed in you like I did.
You set out to create the kind of change we can believe in. Millions of Americans with inadequate coverage were granted access to healthcare because of you. You authorized and led an incredible intelligence operation which brought to justice one of the biggest faces in modern-day terrorism. For the working man and woman, you helped raise minimum wage in their respective workplaces. You openly and devotedly praised the women in your life, our First Lady and your daughters, as being the biggest sources of inspiration for you. With that, you’ve defended women’s rights and fought so hard for equality.
And in talking about equality, you’ve done the most important thing for me as a black member of the LGBT community. You defended my right to love unapologetically and supported the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage. You recognized not only my urge, but my divine human right to be observed as an equal member of society to my heterosexual counterparts. Though I know it wasn’t at all easy, I know you loved your job.
As your two-term tenure comes to a close, I can’t help but drag my feet as you exit office. However, you are more deserving of this change of pace in your life than anyone I have ever met. I find comfort in knowing that you dedicated yourself to your work wholeheartedly, and after we usher in a new government, you will continue to work hard at keeping our nation together. “Thank you” isn’t enough to express how so many of us feel because our gratitude knows no bounds. It was such a pleasure to witness your growth, and to grow with you. You will always be my president.