January 21st, 2009
Dear President Obama,
Congratulations on becoming the President of the United States. I am extremely excited about what this means for our country and our world, and I have a lot of trust in your potential.
The sense that I have gotten from many of your recent speeches, especially those since your victory in November, is that you humbly remind the country that you cannot solve our problems alone. This of course comes as no surprise, but I think the emphasis that you have added to the necessity of everyone taking ownership for our global future is inspiring.
With this being said, and after getting the idea from my wife, I wanted to write a letter to you to show my promises for how I will try to expand outside of my daily life and, to use a phrase that I really like, pick up an oar and start rowing. So what follows are some of the promises that I make to you, my local community, my country, and my world during your presidency.
1) I promise to pay attention. For the last several years I have generally been pretty good at this, but I have tended to ignore what comes directly from the White House itself. A White House clouded in secrecy is a bit hard to approach anyway, but I have already taken steps to accessing the information as it is presented first hand by your administration. I’m following @thewhitehouse on twitter, and have subscribed to the WhiteHouse youtube channel as well. I think it is great that you and your administration have offered to be more transparent, but that is only a first step. I understand that true transparency and cooperation with the government will only come if citizens like myself are willing to open our ears and listen, and then engage in intelligent dialogue.
2) I promise to give you some slack in the compromises you must make. You got the support of a lot of people for being the liberal candidate of the left, but I understand that now that you are president, you cannot be the president only to people like me and my friends. You must lead and inspire all of your fellow citizens, and so I am going to try and tolerate the occasional deviations that you may need to make from my political agenda.
3) I also promise to voice my concerns if your deviations are too egregious. I voted for you because I want a President who will listen to my voice, even in disagreement. Therefore, I hope that you follow through on the image that you have set for yourself and your administration, and listen when disagreement is raised intelligently.
4) I promise to continue my commitment to service. I have been working on founding a school in your father’s home country of Kenya called the Daraja Academy. The road this has put me on has not always been easy or successful, and also has not always been the most exciting work. However, I know that the end purpose of educating girls from Kenya will be life-changing for these students, and so I ew-commit myself to persevering in this task. However, I also want to re-commit to my local community as well, especially with regards Ocean Beach in San Francisco.
5) I promise to take the gift of citizenship seriously, and will attempt to educate my students in a similar vein. It has been hard over the last 8 years for me to not look at citizenship a bit skeptically, but I now will attempt to better understand that my personal skepticism has distanced me from my country just as much as the previous president’s policies. My country can only be as good as I’m willing to allow it to be, and democracy works when people participate…not just in big elections, but regularly.
6) I promise to instill my children, whom I hope to have at some point during your administration, with the value of stewardship. Per my recollection you have not used that exact word, but I think that stewardship is a big value you have indirectly emphasized throughout all that you have said. We need to be stewards of our planet and relationships, and I want my children to learn that at an early age.
7) And finally, I promise to showcase my national and global pride with the rest of the world. I have been fortunate enough to travel throughout much of the world, and in the hope that future travels lie ahead, I plan to be the “good american” that helps to build a new stereotype of Americans abroad.
Congratulations again on your well-deserved victory. You have clearly inspired me. I know that the next 4, and hopefully 8, years will not be perfect, but they can only be as good as work for them to be. I hope to one day be able to meet you personally, shake your hand, and directly offer you my support for the world’s future.