Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Changing Administrative, An Unchanged Hope

Warning: sappy, semi-political post ahead.

Last week, Michelle Obama gave her final speech as the incumbent First Lady of the United States. Tonight in Chicago, Barack Obama will give his Farewell Address.

In Summer 2011, I had the privilege of serving in The White House for a brief time, working with correspondence in the Office of the First Lady. I went intending to study the American political system and the culture of Washington, D.C. What I received was professional mentorship from an amazing staff of career staffers and political appointees, a look into the work-life balance of postroom sorters and world leaders alike, and insight into the American public.

I read letters that summer. A *lot* of letters. Some of them contained policy advice, cries for help, statements of blame. But many of them told stories of hope and thankfulness.

Regardless of where you stand politically or how you feel about Obama's Adminstration (and please believe that I have plenty of complaints - as, I'm sure, does the man himself), you should know that there is a generation of American young people who are growing up feeling empowered because of this couple and the positions they've held. Time and time again, I read statements from children to the effect of "I used to feel I couldn't go to the top because of who I am. Now looking at you, I know I can be anything - even the President."

And that matters. Representation matters. Role models matter.

It's very unlikely that anyone whose letter I read will become the President - but they don't need to. What they need is to grow up knowing it's possible and that the adults in their lives have their backs. FLOTUS emphasised how much she does in her final public words.

I'll carry the words of those encouraged children with me for the rest of my life. Their voices of gratitude and belief have gotten me through some dark days. I will cling to their hope in the days ahead, come what may.

So thanks to the Obama family, and thanks to the country that elected them. Thanks to the incredible team that worked alongside them. And thanks especially to the amazing career staffers who work in administrative and logistical positions in The White House and on Capitol Hill - those who have served and will serve their country under any number of presidential administrations, no matter how much they agree or disagree with the leadership. It is those career staffers who make sure the country's basic systems are able to keep running even as political figures come and go and shuffle things around. You are an inspiration to me and I appreciate all that you do.

The times they are a changin', folks. But hope lives. And role models continue to stand and uplift. And children are growing up in a world that has seen glorious things. May we celebrate, and give each other a hand up, and move ever forward.