Dear Mr. President,
She decided to write the White House. The President, more specifically. Not because she was tired. Or fed up. Or in need of help. But because she wasn’t. Because for the first time in a long, long time she looked out and — even if it were raining — she saw the sun. Because for the first time in a long time she knew where she stood. She knew what to fight for. And she knew who to fight with. She knew when she looked out why she was here. What her place was on this Earth. And that’s something that she hadn’t seen in a long time.
She wasn’t a cancer survivor. She wasn’t an Obamacare success story, although in another state, another letter, she very well could have been. She wasn’t new to America, although she enthusiastically welcomed all new friends. She wasn’t a single mother or a student or even an Alaskan grateful for the restoration of Denali — although she cheered every single one of those on. She was just lost. Except that now she was found. She wasn’t blind, but she didn’t believe that she’d been seeing. She was down, and while she still wasn’t up, she had reason she should be. And it was all because of him.
The president of the United States of America. A man she had never met, but one she’d spent years defending. One she lost friends and friendships over. And she was proud of that choice, too. One she stood up for, loudly, and said, “It’s either respect him or lose me!” And those who chose to disrespect the man in the Oval Office lost her as a result. She felt that strongly.
She chose this day to write the White House for no other reason than to express her gratitude by telling her story. She was a southern born, fire and brimstone breathing, gospel singing, cornbread eating, Southern literature reading white girl who, like Jerry Maguire, “looooved black people!” See, she loved all people. And she fought like hell for them, too. I suppose you could say that she was raised to be a Democrat. But more accurately, she was born to be one.
Born in 1979, she didn’t have a father. She never did. But she had a great uncle and a Granddad who tried. And they did well. Born in 1926, they were both raised Southern Democrats who didn’t abandon the party that saved the nation during the Great Depression simply because they suggested that brown kids had the right to go to school with our white ones. She campaigned for Michael Dukakis on the playground and it broke her Elementary School heart when he lost. But not so much that by the time Bill Clinton rolled around she hadn’t fully recovered. She spent her life dreaming of law school and a place in the Senate, but life had other plans.
When she lost her beloved Daddy Warbucks who she referred to as her Uncle Chunky and found herself in a legal battle that would take five years of her life and go all the way to the highest court in her state when she was a few months shy of eighteen, she began to hate everything that she had ever loved. School, books, the law. More pointedly, the government.
After inheriting just enough money to almost kill herself, she drank slowly and deliberately and sporadically for years. Almost 10 years ago God dealt with her about that, and like just about everything she ever loved, she gave that up too.
And it’s the proudest accomplishment of her life. One in which she can take no credit. For the glory is, as always, the Lord’s.
Though life has a way of turning around on itself and she found herself, once again, writing, reading, dreaming. Still, she felt lost. And there it was. An election to bring out in her what she thought she’d never see again –a fighter.
Though a staunch Hill and Bill girl since she was a kid, the primaries behind her, she moved on to supporting her new man with a tan, Mr. Barack Obama. With a “Hell yes, this is an Obama button and hell yes, I look cute in it!” enthusiastic and unmatched gusto, she marched on. (Which didn’t go over too well in the South.) But she shined. And for her, shine worked. It always worked. She pissed people off, out witted them, outsmarted them, and out read them like she hadn’t in years. And she didn’t shy away from telling them, either.
The night she watched the states surrounding hers turn blue in 2008, was the first time in her life that she caught a glimpse of the America that her Pop and Uncle Chunky told her about. And her love for her president, instantly, reached — soared — to unprecedented height.
The battles waged with setbacks and websites (argh! healthcare.gov) and shellacking at midterms, but with each intentional half-truth Fox News aired, she clung harder to what she knew. And come election night in 2012, she was “unfriended” by every third person that had walked the halls of Dickson County Senior High School in Dickson County, Tennessee. But she had done it again. She had fought through to the good fight. And she won. We had won. And in doing so, she had found herself again. A self she hadn’t seen since college. She loved her president almost as much as she loved her football team and she wasn’t giving up on POTUS # 44 or “The Big Orange!” anytime soon. And she never would. She never could.
It’s been messier than she can say, more words waged then she can write, and more books read then she can recall. At times, Maddow podcast replaced real life and friends + enemies replaced actual friends. But through the last seven years, she has seen grace time after time, dignity radiating out from everything the Obama family has touched, a role model in her First Lady every time she took the stage or captured the media’s eye, two gorgeous all-American girls at their side, and she’s come to remember what Leo’s (go August!) do best — we roar. (Some of us louder than others!) And we fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. And in all of that, she found herself. It wasn’t in whiskey or shopping or low carb and a size 2, it was in purpose. It was in life. And most importantly, it was in using that purpose of the life God has given you to stand up for others.
You see, Sir, that Obama girl was me. And it is with a grateful heart and the spirit of a fellow unconquerable soul that I thank you for reminding me what it is that I love most about the United States of America: her goodness.
My blessings, prayers, gratitude and love will always be extended to you and your amazing family. It’s been an honor, sir. And I have truly, truly enjoyed every minute of it.
An American who appreciates her president.
Candi C. Mathis