Thursday, January 19, 2017

My Letter of Thanks to President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama

Dear President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, thank you for the grace and dignity you brought to the White House. You made it a thoroughly beautiful place, that exhibited and has come to symbolize truthfulness, profound understanding, inclusion, joy and values that sustain individuals, families, relationships, friendships, communities and whole societies. 

A place of intelligent, humane government, wisdom, humility, a real striving towards world peace through dialogue instead of war. Of the importance of equality in every walk of life, and of triumph through adversity.

For so long politics has been portrayed as a dirty game. I know the worst needs to be exposed but often that happens at the cost of the best. Russian-driven fake news aside, a democratic society with freedom of speech isn't easy when our salacious instincts are so powerful and they're constantly spoon-fed a diet that's so rich and so gratifying to them. Let's face it, the dirty parts are more dramatic than the clean. The distorted picture is hard to resist if your only source of information is a media driven by the need to make money, employing journalists who need to make a living, and to support their families.

Some people instinctively search for something better, but many either soak up that rich and gratifying diet and utterly abandon independence of mind, or they're nauseated by it and give into cynicism, become enervated, lose interest, and don't realize that by not searching for the best, they're strengthening the worst.

But you have been a shining example that's been right out there for everyone to see, and that some have been blind to but that most have ultimately embraced. You entered the minds and hearts of millions, at home and around the world. You elevated politics, reminding us all that it should be, can be and is something of beauty, something that inspires and gives hope. A means through which people can be drawn together and society can be healed and constantly improved.

We've seen, up close and personal recently, that instant gratification of baser instincts, of the salacious part, lasts a few seconds and then the after-effects kick in. They last much longer than a few seconds and they spread like a virulent disease.

You have proved that living with courage is attainable and rewarding. That wisdom isn't always instantly gratifying but that it makes space for giving and receiving love, for experiencing joy and fun, for the best kind of bonding experiences. That going high creates massive challenges within, but that when we rise to them, the sense of fulfillment and peace, the knowledge that we've contributed to making the world a safer place for ourselves and everyone around us, that we've opened the door to give and receive love and respect—that is unparalleled, long-term and sustainable gratification. And nothing beats it!

I'm not an American citizen, although I've longed to be one forever. It was hard to watch the election process and be powerless to play an active role. I wanted to be on the ground, talking to people, helping out, doing my bit. America has always epitomized for me a society where those who have to fight for equality do so with incredible courage, persistence and resilience, though the worst of times. Joined and supported by those who do have equality and want it for everybody. A society where the power and importance of hope and faith are recognized and nurtured.

These past eight years have illustrated those qualities to me more than ever before. You changed the way America deals with its own problems and, as a member of the international community, although it's the "biggest kid on the block", your Administration has behaved with restraint and respect, with profound understanding of long and short term consequences for all.

I've raged and mourned, along with millions round the world, the results of the election. But I've been uplifted at the power of the fight to preserve values that are under siege in many place round the world. It's always true that the worst time bring out the best in the best people.

Mr. President when I watched your press conference last night, I soaked it up with a mixture of intense intellectual satisfaction, relief at your sane and coherent responses, pleasure at the way you spoke about your beautiful daughters, infinite sadness that this was your last press conference, and profound gratitude for everything you have done for the world and for me in my own life. I didn't want you to leave that podium.

You and the First Lady have "lived your lives out loud" and illustrated every day, in so many different ways, that real power, real strength, is a quiet thing but it somehow speaks the loudest, its voice travels the furthest, and its message reverberates in hearts and souls forever.

Referring to the US Olympic athletes, you said what a pleasure it was to interact with people who are the best in the world at what they do. Well, every person who has interacted with you and the First Lady, have had that experience. You've carried the weight, the burden of responsibility with grace, good humor and dignity. I've seen how it bowed you down, though, and lately, although your sadness at the end of this incredible era is palpable, it's seemed as if, in shedding the burden, you've not only lost the weight of it, you've lost years!

Thank you for bowing out of the White House in such a mind-bogglingly graceful, soulful and completely undefeated manner despite the results of the election; in fact, in a way that has left me, and I'm sure millions of others, notwithstanding our fear of what's coming, with a sense of the gentle closing of one door and the opening of many others.

God bless you and your family, and keep you safe.