In the closing moments of his presidency, President Barack Obama has been the picture of grace. While many of his supporters are still angrily and fearfully grappling with the consequences Donald Trump will have for Obama's hard-fought legacy, the 44th president has dutifully put his energy into keeping the nation together, showing gratitude for the past eight years and looking for a way to move forward. Now, while his farewell address is already behind him, the outgoing president is using the last day before Trump's inauguration to write Americans one final letter filled with his reflections and advice.
In the first lines, Obama compares its purpose to that of the letter presidents traditionally leave for their successors on the desk in the Oval Office. "It's a long-standing tradition for the sitting president of the United States to leave a parting letter in the Oval Office for the American elected to take his or her place," he writes. "But before I leave my note for our 45th president, I wanted to say one final thank you for the honor of serving as your 44th. Because all that I've learned in my time in office, I've learned from you. You made me a better President, and you made me a better man."
And the emotional words don't stop there."Throughout these eight years, you have been the source of goodness, resilience, and hope from which I've pulled strength," he writes, citing the recession, the Charleston shootings, the passage of Obamacare, and the legalization of gay marriage as just some of the historic events that his administration oversaw.
It's in the engaged responses to these triumphs and tragedies that Obama sees the road map for how to move on. He explains, "I've seen you, the American people, in all your decency, determination, good humor, and kindness. And in your daily acts of citizenship, I've seen our future unfolding. All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into that work — the joyous work of citizenship. Not just when there's an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime."
The president also promises that while he may be losing his title, his commitment to the well-being of all Americans is a forever deal. "I'll be right there with you every step of the way," he says.
Obama ends the letter with a promise. It's a message that may be even more crucial to believe now than it was in 2008: "Yes, we can."
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