One of the most important things I’ve done as President is read messages from Americans like you. And whether you sat down to write me a letter back in 2009 or just last week, I wanted to say thank you for writing.

Letters like yours have given me the chance to hear the real stories that make up the ever changing narrative of America. They are stories of your setbacks and successes, your fears and your hopes not just for today—but for the country and the world we’ll leave to our children and our grandchildren. I want you to know that I was listening. I heard your stories. And you made me a better President.

In 2014, a young mom took a chance and shared her family’s story with me. She said she knew that “staying silent about what you see and what needs changing never makes any difference.” She was right. And so, while serving you has been the greatest privilege of my life, I want you to know that when I leave the White House, I’ll still hold the most important title of all: that of citizen.

And as a proud American citizen, I believe that we are a constant work in progress. Our success has never been certain. None of our journey has been preordained. There’s always been a gap between our highest ideals and the reality we witness every day. But what makes us exceptional—what makes us Americans—is that we have fought wars, and passed laws, and reformed systems, and organized unions, and staged protests, and launched mighty movements to close that gap. To bring the promise and the practice of America into closer alignment. To form that more perfect union.

So our collective future depends on our collective willingness to uphold our duties as citizens: to vote, to speak out, and to stand up for others knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. And for the rest of my days, I promise I will be right there alongside you, continuing to do my part to build a better, more prosperous, more diverse and inclusive America—an America with a future full of hope.

From all of us in the Obama family—thank you for writing.

All the best,

Barack Obama

photo credit: U.S. Embassy New Delhi The First Couple: Moments of togetherness via photopin (license)

Dr. Arif Ahmad
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