Dear President Obama,
Thanks for 8 years of completely dignified leadership. There’s so much I want to thank you for, in particular, the policies you enacted that impacted me personally. The ACA, first and foremost. The creation of the exchange and the ban on preexisting conditions allowed my husband to take an entrepreneurial leap with a job working to improve an economically depressed city (Stockton). And, when he became very sick in 2015, and we were huddled and scared in the hospital, we just had to worry about his health. We never had to worry about complete economic ruin, as the ACA protects against lifetime limits and caps out-of-pocket costs. Thank you for all of that.
As I’m now pregnant, I’m grateful my new preexisting condition doesn’t bar me from insurance. On a fun (?) note, it’s nice to not have to add “buy a breast pump” to my pre-baby to-do list, as the ACA requires insurance carriers to provide it. Prior to that, I never had to worry about the exorbitant cost of an IUD getting in the way of my birth control decisions.
Beyond healthcare, when it came time to buy a home, and we sifted through miles of paperwork, as much as I groaned about all the mortgage documents, I felt grateful to Dodd-Frank and the stricter requirements on my lender.
Professionally, it’s been an immense pleasure to watch your staff work to improve civil rights for people with disabilities and older adults. When I need motivation, I think of your Labor Secretary, Tom Perez’s energizing speech at WHCOA, reminding us to be like his mentor, a poverty lawyer, and always, always, think about what we can do for other people. The tone you set for the country, surrounding yourself with diverse and thoughtful leaders, was incredibly motivating.
And, because I’m a millennial, and have to turn this into something about myself-with photos!-I’ve been thinking the direct impact your presidency had on my life.
2004: Like most of the world, this is when I first heard of “Barack Obama.” It was the summer after my freshman year, and I was studying abroad in England. I checked an e-mail from my mom, who was avidly watching the DNC, and followed her link to watch the previous night’s speech by a young politician from Illinois. Wow. Quite and introduction! I was impressed.
2007: Just about this time, 10 years ago, was the first time I saw you in person. You hosted a rally in LA organized by LA4Grassroots4Obama. You had just announced your candidacy, and Jen Tan and I trekked over to some park in LA to see the inspiring Senator. You walked out, into the crowd, on a sort of cat walk, and everyone completely lost it. You beamed charisma and dynamism, and I was Team Obama right away.
2008: At this point, I was deep in the law school bubble, and missed a lot of the campaign furry. I do remember election night-I had a vicious cold and all I wanted to do was drink and celebrate. It was an odd time. A few weeks earlier, a professor made us watch footage of Lehman Brother’s employees leaving their building, signaling the economic collapse. He warned us the world would never be the same and it wasn’t. Thankfully, you brought hope during a deeply troubling time.
2009: Inauguration time! I so desperately wanted to be there, and thankfully, Meg, Kelleen and Janou agreed to go with me.
I thought we had tickets to the parade, and we waited for hours and hours in the bitter cold. This sounds dramatic, but it was wildly uncomfortable. When we finally got through security, I burst in to tears-so cold and overwhelmed. We saw you and your beautiful Michelle walk through the parade (in that gorgeous gold and green jacket) and it was awesome. But still….so cold! Later that night, we warmed up at Pines of Rome and that dinner-sharing stories of the day with Meg’s parents (who had much better seats) and toasting to our new president over cheesy pizza-is a very happy memory.
Later that fall, Janou and I both interned on the Hill, watching in excitement as your congressional colleagues prepared what would become the Affordable Care Act.
2012: Four years went by fast! Soon it was reelection time. At this point I had graduated from law school was working on ACA policies that impact older adults. I was even more committed to making sure you-and that law-stuck around.
That summer, after watching the decision come down at SCOTUS in the morning, I rushed back to my office where we celebrated. The individual mandate lived! Obamacare survived!
But the election threatened to reverse all of that, and the focus that fall was FOUR MORE YEARS.
We went to a fundraiser and saw Joe :)
And went to one of your final campaign events-co-starring Bill Clinton and Dave Matthews.
And celebrated on election night!
Walking from the bar, where we watched the results, down to the White House to celebrate was a classic “I’m so happy I’m in my twenties and living in DC to enjoy this” moment. The campaign was never a sure thing and it was an incredible relief to imagine four more years.
The second term inauguration!
A few months later, the day before the White House temporarily closed to visitors because of the sequester (ughhh), Janou got me a tour. It was my first time visiting as an adult, and I was just as awe-struck then as I was when I first saw it in eighth grade.
That spring, David and I got engaged, a life event made even sweeter with the Supreme Court’s decision in the Windsor case. Walking to the court and celebrating with so many jubilant strangers and families was an absolute highlight.
2014: Janou started working with an agency in your administration, and our admiration for your leadership grew even stronger. I loved hearing stories about her work and was beyond impressed by the dedication her colleagues felt to their cause. That fall, my mom went to an event with Janou-more excitement!
That spring, as we celebrated Katie’s wedding in Palm Springs, Janou got a phone call about a new job opportunity. I became an even more proud older sister-amazed at her incredible work and all she learned from the administration.
David and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary that summer, and were pleasantly surprised to receive these kind wishes in the mail :) It now sits framed on our fireplace and always makes me smile.
At this point we were had left DC and were living in California. In July, I flew back to DC for 36 hours to participate in the White House Conference on Aging. Hearing you speak about long-term services and supports–particularly about home and community-based services–an issue I am passionate about–was just awesome.
And soon enough, it was fall 2016. No matter what happened that November, the term was ending, and it was time for staff to take their departure photos. When Janou shared the date for her photo, we excitedly booked tickets and planned a fall weekend in DC.
It was Halloween, a beautiful fall day, and we excitedly cabbed from our hotel to Founding Farmer’s for lunch. We were all dressed up, nervously trying not to get food on our clothes before we met the PRESIDENT.
After clearing security, we waited for our photo time with the other staffer’s families in the EEOB.
Eventually, it was time to walk over to the Oval Office (!!!) and I could hardly believe we were going to meet the President. As we waited in line in the colonnade, I watched families returning from their photo. They were speechless, clearly verklempt; one mom looked like she might hyperventilate.
I was so excited. And then, you stood in the door, and told us, “come on in!” You greeted us with such a calm and friendly demeanor and it totally put me at ease.
There were SO many families in line that day, yet you made us feel like you were completely focused and in the moment. We thanked you profusely, and I still don’t feel like I thanked you enough. When I think back to that speech in 2004, and the tough place the country fell in the following years, and compare to where we are today, all I can say is THANK YOU. Thank you for pulling us through and lifting us up. Thank you for doing it with your beautiful family, all with complete dignity and grace. Thank you for everything.
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President Barack Obama has departure photos taken with Janou —- and family in the Oval Office, Oct. 31, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
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