Thank you, President Obama, for eight years of work in service of progressivism and democracy.
Thank you for advancing the values that always made me proud to call this country home.
As an immigrant, when I heard you say that “we are and always will be a nation of immigrants,” I felt included and acknowledged in a way that has been rare in political discourse. But I’m hardly the only person who has had this reaction to your words and actions.
You’ve been one of the most meaningful forces of equality that I’ve known in my lifetime, always guiding with the idea of “expanding our founding creed to embrace all, not just some.” First, by recognizing that health care is a fundamental right, and lowering the uninsured rate from 16 percent in 2010 to 8.9 percent by 2016.
And by fighting for marriage equality and speaking out against bullying. By challenging the federal government to hire over 100,000 people with disabilities. By signing the Lily Ledbetter Act as your first piece of legislation in office—and advocating for equal pay consistently and vocally over the course of two terms.
This list could go on, but ultimately, I want to say thank you for being a president who considered all of humanity through a human lens.
But this isn’t just about policy. It’s about the audacity of hope. That phrase—and the meaning behind it—sparked a movement and awakened a generation. So, thank you for leading with hope and possibility.
For helping me and so many others rethink the concept of “American exceptionalism” as the idea that we haven’t been “flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change—and make life better for those who follow.”
You led from a place that believed in the fundamental goodness of human beings. You retained this optimism even when a peaceful transition of power meant a real threat to your legacy.
And on top of it all, you and Michelle let us all in on a beautiful love story. You told dad jokes and smirked with pride and generated a thousand memes (with a little help from VP Biden, of course). You cried in the moments where our hearts were all breaking—as well as the moments where we just felt overwhelmed by joy.
This wonderful moment below (minutes 1:28 and 3:30 for the highlights) is the one I think of when I imagine how you might be spending your 56th birthday. Casually brushing away a tear and glowing with feeling and joy.
And hopefully basking in the pride of knowing the indelible impact you’ve had on this country, and so many men and women like myself.
Words: Neha GandhiPhotos: GIPHY