Thank You, President Obama

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Calendars everywhere proclaim today, January 20, 2017, as Inauguration Day. As someone who is dedicated to advocating for children, as well as people with disabilities and other marginalized communities (e.g., African Americans, Latinos, immigrants, and LGBT people), for me today is a day to say good bye to a champion of these groups, to thank him and the First Family for all they have done. Barack Obama has been a man of action, a man of words and conviction, and a role model.

Clearly, Obama touched the lives of so many Americans who wrote to him. He took it upon himself to answer at least ten letters a day. Some of the letters were angry. Yet, Obama took the time to respond with hope and empathy.

Indeed, the First Family was “a master class in dignity and civility.” But “Did we learn what they taught?”  

Ellen DeGeneres, likewise a figure of humor and grace, gave an eight-year retrospective tribute to the president she said she loved as much as admired:

 

My “Obama moment”? There are so many, but his rendition of “Amazing Grace” at the AME Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, after the horrific hate crime shooting of the church’s pastor and congregants engaged in a Bible study will forever haunt me. As will Barack Obama’s tearful speech after the unspeakable shooting and murder of innocent children and their teachers in Newtown, Connecticut.

OK, that was many years after I read his two books, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance and The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. The year 2008 seemed like a time in which we, with the life-affirming optimism of the child, could dare to dream and hope.

Obama’s January 10 farewell speech was magic.

As was his letter of farewell, in which he said “And when the arc of progress seems slow, remember: America is not the project of any one person. The single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ ‘We the People.’ ‘We shall overcome.’ Yes, we can.”

And one more time from his Obama Foundation, he and Michelle, thanked the nation.

His legacy was erased from the White House website as soon as Mr. Trump took the oath of office. Fortunately, it has been preserved in archives. And Barack Obama invites people to share their thoughts with him.

I no longer follow @POTUS on Twitter. It’s now @POTUS44. And @FLOTUS44. No longer @Whitehouse, but @ObamaWhiteHouse, White House Archived.

 

Barack Obama has reason to thank this great nation. However, I want to thank him and his wonderful family.

Yes, we can.

For that, President Obama, I am thankful.

Thanksgiving – My Family, Syrians, and Arctic Wolves

First, to my dear readers, a happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

While I look forward to spending time with some of my precious family, for which I am extremely grateful, my heart continues to ache for those who are separated from their families.  I think of the Syrian refugees, of whom more than half are children.  I continue to shed tears for them, for how they have been treated by the despots in their home countries, as well as for how these people have become scapegoats, targets of shameful racist demagoguery both among existing politicians and candidates seeking political office next year.

Arctic Wolf Family

A family of Arctic wolves spends time together at the Lakota Wolf Preserve, Columbia, NJ. PHOTO: Copyright 2015, Daniel L. Berek

Wolves are often portrayed in popular literature and folklore as the evil.  Of all the pictures I have taken of these magnificent animals, this one best shows how popular myth so often gets it wrong.  My point: the same applies to the hateful things said about the Syrian refugees and Muslims in general.  My experiences with both show the opposite.

So, on this Thanksgiving, before I join members of my own family, I took a few moments to pen a letter to President Barack Obama, to express my support for his wise and humane policies regarding the refugees and immigrants.   In my letter, I express my feelings that his plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees “has great metaphorical and practical meaning, as that is the number of children saved during the Holocaust, thanks to the Kindertransport and the generosity of the British people.”

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