I've been thinking back a lot, like many of us surely, to 2008. A much younger crew of three kiddos were in our family at the time of the election, at such impressionable and important ages. Heck, I was younger and more impressionable! We talked so much about what was happening then on the political stage (as we do now), and the way Steve and I were moved was reflected in the kids as well. Ezra, deep in a love for studying all presidents at the time, dressed himself as a campaigning Barack Obama for Halloween. Calvin, deep into sports, treated sign making like a baseball game, with Go Obama Go signs littering nearly every tree in our backyard trail (only a little bit missing the point that no voters would be in those woods). A whole other lifetime ago, it feels. And eight years later, I have so much gratitude for the work that's been done to better our world in the time that has passed.
But oh the work has just begun! In just a bit, I'm leaving to get ready for the Women's March in Augusta where I'll be volunteering for the weekend. Some of my family will join me tomorrow. We brainstormed our signs this morning at the breakfast table, though I think I'll likely not be carrying one and instead wearing a yellow vest and directing folks to the bathrooms and the parking in my glamorous volunteer role (at least I'll have a pretty pink hat!). But that's okay. It's all important. Showing up matters. (Looking for a place to make your voice heard tomorrow? Find a Sister March near you!)
And then we return home and continue the talking and continue the work that lies ahead. Like so many others I know, I've been feeling sad and overwhelmed as I read the news each morning and wonder what is coming next, and what I can possibly do about any of it. Least of all, how to explain this to our children, how to protect them and their more vulnerable family members and peers, how to empower them to take action themselves. It seems fitting then, that this week I found great comfort and strength in the words of Obama himself. And I hope you don't mind that I share with you the answer to one of the questions he received at his last press conference. Whether you agree with me about the good this man has done or not, I do believe his words about being a parent are universally true. These words moved me so much when I heard them that I quickly printed them out as inspiration and motivation. Because I, too, have great hope in people.
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CHRISTIE PARSONS, of the LA Times: The first lady put the stakes of the 2016 election in very personal terms, in a speech that resonated across the country. And she really spoke the concerns of a lot women, LGBT, people of color, many others. And — so I wonder now, how you and the first lady on talking to your daughters about the meaning of this election and how you interpret it for yourself and for them?
OBAMA: You know, every parent brags on their daughters or their sons. You know, if your mom and dad don’t brag on you, you know you got problems. But man, my daughters are something. And — and they just surprise and enchant and impress me more and more every single day as they grow up. And, so these days when we talk, we talk as parent to child, but also we learn from them. And, I think it was really interesting to see how Malia and Sasha reacted. They were disappointed. They paid attention to what their mom said during the campaign and believed it because it’s consistent with what we have tried to teach them in our household and what I’ve tried to model as a father with their mom and what we’ve asked them to expect from future boyfriends or spouses. But what we’ve also tried to teach them is resilience and we’ve tried to teach them hope and that the only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world. And so, you get knocked down, you get up, brush yourself off and you get back to work. And that tended to be their attitude. I think neither of them intend to pursue a future of politics and in that, too, I think their mother’s influence shows.
But, both of them have grown up in an environment where I think they could not help, but be patriotic to love this country deeply, to see that it’s flawed, but see that they have responsibilities to fix it. And that they need to be active citizens. And they have to be in a position to talk to their friends and their teachers and their future co-workers in ways that try to shed some light as opposed to just generate a lot of sound and fury. And I expect that’s what they’re going to do. They do not — they don’t mope. And — and what I really am proud of them, but what makes me proudest about them, is that they also don’t get cynical about it. They — they have not assumed because their side didn’t win or because some of the values that they care about don’t seem as if they were vindicated that automatically America has somehow rejected them or rejected their values. I don’t think they feel that way. I think they have in part through osmosis, in part through dinner time conversations appreciated the fact that this is a big complicated country and democracy is messy, it doesn’t always work exactly the way you might want. It doesn’t guarantee certain outcomes. But if you — if you’re engaged and you’re involved, then there are a lot more good people than bad in this country and there’s a core decency to this country and — that they got to be a part of lifting that up. And I expect they will be. And in that sense, they are representative of this generation that makes me really optimistic. I’ve been asked — I had — I’ve had some off-the-cuff conversations with some journalists where they said, “OK, you seem like you’re OK, but really, what are you really thinking?” And I’ve said, “No, what I’m saying really is what I think.” I — I believe in this country. I believe in the American people. I believe that people are more good than bad. I believe tragic things happen. I think there’s evil in the world, but I think at the end of the day, if we work hard and if we’re true to those things in us that feel true and feel right, that the world gets a little better each time. That’s what this presidency has tried to be about. And I see that in the young people I’ve worked with. I couldn’t be prouder of them.
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And with that...out the door I go. I'll see you out there! Power to the People, my friends!