This letter was written and mailed to the WHITE HOUSE on December 28, 2016
Dear President Obama,
We had the briefest of handshakes on a fearless bright day in Des Moines, Iowa, 31st of October, 2007. And if I could go back to those days and keep you in the White House, I would. But you need some rest and you have books to write—your first two being enlightening for me, all words of wisdom. So last night after perusing a memorial edition of EBONY, I cried. What has happened should never be. The electorate has failed. Don’t they realize that we are a country of truth, not of lies?
You, Dear President Obama, will always be my POTUS. Knowing your intent and strong love for the United States of America, you might argue with me, encourage me to accept him. But I cannot agree. He will never be my president. That’s the way it will be in my heart—maybe forever. Maybe until the United States is brave enough to finally elect a woman.
I fear you might never see this letter—there will be and are so many others. But regardless, I had to write it, and hope that you will take bags of these letters to your new home in D.C. to peruse on a day when you need to reconnect with your constituency. That’s me! I’ll await your future words in your next book, or when you need to speak out. Because you have promised to do so—we will always need you.
And though you have repeatedly pointed out how the office of President can change the man or woman who enters it, I personally don’t believe this One can change. There are troubling days ahead.
My story: because I know you love and appreciate our stories: born on the Southside of Chicago to an amazing mother and dentist father who died when I was three. But like your mother, mine raised me with tender love and promise. She gave me responsibility early on, so by twelve I became a latchkey kid who took care of my younger brother and cooked meals. And like you, my mother’s love made the difference and helped me reach out to others. Rarely have I been fearful of the future. But without you, I am now.
I’m white and regret subtle racism that surrounded me where I grew up, in the Beverly Hills neighborhood on Chicago’s Southside. David Axelrod and you just discussed on the podcast that you were backed by that very Irish neighborhood. Beverly has always been a town of lawyers, doctors and educators. But my first revolt was wearing orange to my grade school on St. Patrick’s Day. My heritage is German.
After earning a degree at Mundelein College on the hipper north side, I taught English literature at Bloom High School in the far south suburbs. You might know Ford Heights. On a day to remember, Lacy Moore came to my desk in homeroom to warn me not to be in the gym at second hour. It was the time of the shooting of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. We teachers never faltered in our love for our students. And I don’t know what happened to Lacy, but I’ll never forget him and many others, like Flamingo Stringfellow, who objected to an uptight play we were reading—all the characters white.
I don’t remember what play it was, but I certainly remember what Flamingo said to me: Sex is good. There’s nine people in my family. My parents and seven kids. No space. We sleep in the same room, all of us. So all my life I’m hearing my parents have sex. Nice sex. This story you are teaching me? Says nothing to me. Nothing.
He was right. And when I think about it now, living with my widow mother, there was no sex in my house. We all need to discover how to accept our different lives.
I’ll also never forget Anna Cooper, the daughter of a former slave, who cleaned house for my grandmother and then for my mother. God only knew how old Anna was. And I want to call out: Anna forgive us, for not being more giving than we could have been. That was the 1950s when I was growing up in white Beverly Hills, Chicago.
Change can be slow, but inexorable. At Thanksgiving this year, my family all talked about how we have to cope, now that you are leaving the White House. I wish you could stay, but I know you cannot. So, God speed, Dear President Obama.
Hillary tried. You worked hard for her. We thought we had it made. But for many troubling reasons, it was not meant to be—and now we know that instead, the future will hang some progressive star farther from our reach, making us work harder, believe harder in THE HOPE AND CHANGE that alters the very thoughts in our brains.
HATE won’t win, Dear President Obama, I know that. You know that. Thanks for what you have given me these past eight years. And blessings on you and your beautiful family.
Elizabeth A. Havey wife, mother, teacher, nurse as a second career, and always a writer and lover of ideas
PS My husband and I attended your inauguration in 2009. We were all the way down by the Washington Monument. We were cold! But we loved it all.
Thanks for reading….Have you ever written to a president, governor, mayor, senator etc??
Even as a seventh grader, I wrote to Queen Elizabeth II and got a formal reply from one of her Ladies in Waiting–an exciting mail moment for me.
The White House used to follow this tradition. If you wrote to the First Lady, you would get a formal reply on White House stationery.
I had a friend who actually helped decorate the Obama Christmas Tree. She wrote and asked, knowing that the First Lady was looking for volunteers. She was selected and worked alongside Michelle. Not that’s something to remember.