Friday, January 20, 2017

Open Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama:

Eight years ago, I was in a bar not far from the National Mall watching you take your oath as I drank margaritas with my new, at that time, girlfriend. Although we'd left Baltimore early, the crowds were so thick, getting past the checkpoints and into the mall seemed impossible. Everything about that time seemed impossible.

I had lost my job that previous summer. I managed a watch boutique in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, and I could tell that the country was in a bad place. I'd been working in that area for years, and I'd never seen it so slow. The usual bustle of locals and tourists had dwindled to a trickle. I wasn't the least bit surprised that my management, not the crashing economy, was blamed for my store's poor numbers. 

In a sense, I felt relieved. I predicted (accurately, it turned out) that the store itself would close down after not too long. Also, it gave me the opportunity to do something I had always imagined, but never actually tried before, working on a political campaign. By that time, I'd had the honor of hearing you speak when you stopped in Baltimore during the primaries. Now, unburdened of the stresses of running a retail operation and eligible to collect unemployment benefits, I finally had the time I needed.

In early September I applied to volunteer as a Deputy Field Organizer, and on October 1, 2008, I stepped off a train in Manassas, Virginia, where it had been decided I could do the most good. I cannot tell you, Mr. President, how proud I was to be there. Even for a Word Pimp, the words can be hard to muster.

It wasn't easy. I was immediately thrown into the fire, asked to debate a local GOP official at a local nursing home. Without talking points! I'm happy to say that I crushed him. Your ideas were so vivid, so eloquent, your arguments so cogent, that they rolled off my tongue as easily as if it were your lips moving.

I walked miles, made hundreds of calls, had issues with lodging, and I came home to a $1000 plus phone bill; but I knew in my heart that it was all worth it. Whatever small role I could play in winning Virginia for Democrats, for the first time in forty years, was worth the price. Besides, the rewards were priceless, like my unexpected debate, and the day I got to cater to Susan Rice before a speech she gave in Manassas.

Election night, when it was announced that we'd won Virginia, was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for making those experiences possible for me. Thank you for stepping right in and stopping the carnage the tanked economy had caused our nation. In an impossible job market, you helped me personally by making sure unemployment benefits were extended. When my girlfriend lost her business, it was your initiatives that helped her find a job.

As I write this, it's my understanding that a new president is being sworn in. I can't be sure as I refuse to watch it. For me, it would be condoning your successor's abhorrent behavior and vile ideas. How am I supposed to transition from the grace and wisdom that you showed over the past eight years to...

Apologies. This missive is not about what may happen, this is about you and how grateful I am for all of your efforts and accomplishments, despite the fact that many were intent on diminishing, even demonizing them and you. I am grateful for the way you carried and conducted yourself. I am grateful for how you represented our country around the world. 

You were a beacon during darker days, and I find it sad that we seem to now be drawn back towards darkness. Forgive me if I find myself dwelling on another inauguration, one that despite its bitter cold was full of cheer and warmth, even in a crowded bar off the National Mall.

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