Dear President Obama,
I like you. I really like you. By the time you get this note, a week will have passed since I wrote it – and probably several policy initiatives, too – and I’m pretty sure I’ll still like you.
I like how you’ve pulled our country together, inspired us, lifted us up. I like the way you whisper in your wife’s ear, the way you treat your critics with respect, and the way you dance. I like how you look in an overcoat… and in a tux. That expression “long, tall drink of water”? They invented that for you, Mr. President.
I really like your smile.
I wept for two straight hours during your inauguration. It was a glorious day! Michelle was radiant, your darling daughters were beaming, and you were properly somber. I don’t blame you for the sometimes-rude behavior of the crowd. (Garrison Keillor referred to their “dignified booing.” I don’t believe booing is dignified, and I bet you don’t, either.) Your speech was just what we needed to hear. Stern, yet hopeful, you took us to task and rallied our spirits. I wish you hadn’t made those digs at President Bush – they seemed beneath you, on that day – but you made up for it when you embraced him at the helicopter. Your compassion for this man set an example that few have been willing to follow. How I admire you for it.
As I write this, Mr. President, you’re still in your honeymoon phase. Everybody adores you. Everybody wants you to succeed. Your early detractors have graciously embraced you, and your longtime supporters have generously refrained from holding you to impossible standards. You have said you intend to be everybody’s president, and so far, everybody believes you. If anyone can extend this grace period, it’s you, Mr. President. There’s just something about you…
Elegant as Fred Astaire, with the gangly charm of Jimmy Stewart and the regal bearing of Sydney Poitier, you dazzle us like an old-time movie star. But unlike many of your pretty celebrity supporters, your style radiates substance. You are bookish and professorial, but unlike many of your erudite supporters, you are not haughty or dismissive. You use long-forgotten words like “virtue” and nobody snickers. Even the most jaded among us sit up a little straighter in our chairs. Yours is a powerful spell, Mr. President.
But inevitably, reality will set in. We Americans are only human, and, as impossible as it seems at this bright moment, so are you. In anticipation of that day when the romance starts to fade – when some wise guy notices the small hole in your overcoat or the frayed hem on your tux – I make the following vows:
I will always give you the benefit of the doubt. I may question your policy decisions, but no matter what you do, I will never question your good intentions. I will always believe that you love your country and have her best interest at heart.
I will never criticize you in a petty, immature manner. You won’t hear me cracking on your middle name, making fun of the way you speak, or giving you inane monikers along the lines of Chimpy McShrub, Bushitler, or Obamessiah.
No matter how much I disagree with your policies – if I should disagree, which remains to be seen – I will never, I repeat never, move to Canada. Nor will I threaten to move to Canada, then stay. I know how lucky I am to be an American citizen, and you’ll not hear me making light of that good fortune. Even if I come to dislike you intensely – which seems highly unlikely – I will not confuse my feelings for you with my feelings for my country.
As much as I appreciate your pledge to make government more transparent, I will always assume there are things you know that I don’t know. I will be fine with that. If the New York Times tells me you’ve been keeping something on the down-low, I’ll trust that you had a very good reason for it, until somebody proves otherwise. I will not expect to be informed of your every move.
Everything I hear about you on Fox News, I will take with a grain of salt. Everything I hear about you on MSNBC… I will take with a grain of salt.
I will never, ever make apologies for you to foreigners, say things like, “He’s not my president,” or act ashamed of you in any way. You are my president, and come what may, you will be my president. I will stand by you, in good times and in bad. I may criticize your policies, but you are our democratically-elected Chief of State, and I will never verbally disown you.
As for the political climate that you’re so eager to change…
When things heat up out there – and they already have, because this is politics – I will not assume that those who disagree with me are unintelligent or evil. Some people are these things, of course, but most people are not. Most people want to do the right thing. We just sometimes disagree on what that is.
Along those lines, I will never call anyone a “hater” unless they’ve actually been hateful. I will remember that, in a pluralistic society like ours, people of good conscience can disagree on any number of issues. In fact, plenty of nice folks disagree with me about that, but I believe it unequivocally. I think you do, too.
I will try to follow your call to “disagree without being disagreeable.” While I don’t share your belief that divisive politics is “childish” – I think it is, in fact, a necessary evil in a pluralistic democracy – I will strive to refrain from behaving childishly when engaging in political debate. As long as we have two parties representing any number of diverse interests and world views, our politics are likely to be somewhat conflict-ridden. But by being sticklers for mutual respect – and that all-important benefit of the doubt – we might just find it easier to compromise. I hope so, anyway.
Infatuations are fleeting, Mr. President. It’s impossible to know, during this, your first hundred – and very heady – days, whether your presidency will be a Great Romance or merely a passing fancy. (Remember when your predecessor had an 80 % approval rating?) But for now, President Obama, we are in your thrall. You have ennobled us, emboldened us, and – let’s be honest – enchanted us. We look up to you. We admire you. We aspire to make you proud. Our expectations are awfully high – and so are yours – so eventually, we will probably let each other down.
But as this Valentine’s Day approaches, you are our national sweetheart. Who knows what we might accomplish together? Here’s hoping it’s an affair to remember.