politics

A farewell to Barack Obama: we're not ready to say goodbye.

Dear Barack Obama,

As an Australian citizen, it feels a little strange to be writing this.

After all, you’re not my president. You never led the country I call home. And yet, here I am, on the other side of the world, not ready to say goodbye to you. (Or your wife, adorable pet dogs and Vice-President, for that matter.)

It feels wrong that I should be mourning your exit from office and care so much about the future of a country that I wasn’t born in, or hold a passport to, and yet, I do. Honestly, it seems most of the world does.

Hey, bud. Source: Getty.

I care because, over the past eight years, you've told the world to care. You've told us to show up and make our voices count and led us to believe that change is a good and possible and achievable thing.

"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek," you said.

But you never taught us how to prepare for bad change.

You didn't ready us for the worst possible outcome — change that almost guarantees social regression and promotes hate and encourages division not just in America, but around the world.

I was so young when I first came to know you.

I'd just turned 21 when I embarked my first major overseas adventure; heading straight to the Big Apple to try and make it as a writer (if you're laughing at this point, I don't blame you, my parents' reaction was much the same). I knew no one, had nowhere to live, and spent all of my money on taxis and at pretentious bars in Williamsburg.

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It was 2008 and you were the Democratic presidential nominee. Your face was plastered everywhere thanks to Shepard Fairey's 'Hope' poster.

barack obama joe biden friendship
My heart. Source: Getty

For hours on end and days at a time, I'd walk around New York with nothing to do and no one to see. The only familiar face staring back at me from the entire city was yours. And so somehow, I formed some kind of sentimental, potentially misguided bond with you.

You were, in my eyes, America's dad: sensible, straight-shooting, determined and affable to a fault.

By the time you were elected a few months later, I had already returned to Australia (my desire to "make it" as a New York writer was a fleeting pipe dream that did not take things like visas, green cards and employment into consideration). But like so many others around the world, I jumped on the sofa Tom Cruise-style, drank in your honour, and rode the promise of change wave.

Mia Freedman discusses the US election with Jodi Picoult. Post continues... 

In the years that followed, I returned to university. I worked some jobs, moved cities and changed careers. I paid off my credit card and student debt and got a new tattoo. I returned to New York and went back to those pretentious bars and asked every American I could about what they thought about your two terms and waxed lyrical about the benefits of mandatory voting.

I shared videos of your speeches on Facebook and would feel all gushy when a candid photo of you and Michelle was released. I shushed people to listen to your speeches and binged every episode of The Circus, hoping to see the history I wanted to see being written with you at the helm.

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But now, after peripherally helping me through the majority of my 20s, you're leaving. And as my own dad would say, I'm not angry, just disappointed. Not at you, but at the hopelessness of what we're being left with, and what this means for everyone who does call America home. (Post continues after gallery.)

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I'm disappointed that now, for the next four years, the world is going to be forced to listen to a chronically underqualified former reality TV host with a penchant for fake tan. The solace in all of this is, I guess, that you're probably feeling the same disappointment.

I know this letter is getting long, and the time to say goodbye is nearing, but I'm not ready. There's nothing good about this goodbye. So perhaps the best thing to say is thank you.

Thank you for making your voice heard around the world. Thank you for telling Americans and the world to be better. Thank you for working hard and making it look worthwhile. Thank you for giving the world eight years of your life.

Thank you for keeping me company on those streets all those years ago; it was a fun time.

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