Barack Obama Shares the Surprise — and Deeply Meaningful — Christmas Gift He Got from Michelle

Jen Juneau
·3 min read

Theo Wargo/WireImage From left: Barack and Michelle Obama in 2014

Michelle Obama has won the Christmas-gifting game.

On Wednesday, former President Barack Obama revealed on Instagram that his wife of 28 years had surprised him with a "drawing of the 12th hole at Augusta National" by the "terrific" artist Valentino Dixon.

"It's an incredible piece, but the story behind it is even better," said President Obama, 59, going on to explain that the Buffalo, New York-based Black artist "was wrongfully convicted for a crime he didn't commit and sentenced to a minimum of 38 ½ years in prison" when he was 21 years old.

"For more than two decades behind bars, he maintained his innocence," he continued of Dixon. "Eventually, he renewed his passion for art, thanks to the advice of his uncle, who told him, 'If you reclaim your talent, you can reclaim your life.' "

"Despite never visiting a golf course, he went on to use photos from magazines to draw golf courses like the one in this photo," President Obama wrote.

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Dixon's "art and his story gained national attention in 2012 through his family's tireless advocacy and a couple of profiles in golf publications," the author of A Promised Land shared. "Then, in 2018, three undergraduate students from Georgetown's Innocence Project uncovered evidence that proved the innocence Valentino had maintained all along. And after 27 years, he was free."

"Today, Valentino travels extensively to share his story and promote the need for criminal justice reform. And thankfully, for me and for so many others, he continues to draw," President Obama added, concluding, "I'm so proud to have one of his works to display."

Dixon shared a video of the commissioned artwork to his Instagram feed, explaining that he originally created the hand-drawn piece with colored pencils while in prison but was "always going back and touching it up ... because a piece of artwork is never complete."

"Michelle Obama reaching out to buy a golf drawing for Barack Obama for Christmas was an honor and a privilege," he wrote in the caption. "This drawing took more than 400 hours and I believe is the largest golf drawing in the world, measuring 60 [inches] x 90 [inches]."

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Mr. and Mrs. Obama spent Christmas in Hawaii, where they were photographed last week kayaking in the ocean. They both shared their family's heartwarming holiday wishes on Twitter.

In a tweet posted by Mrs. Obama, 56, the former first lady shared a photo of the family dogs — Bo and Sunny, both wearing Santa hats — along with a message of good tidings. "Wishing you light, love, and wonder during this holiday season," she wrote. "May the coming year bring us all joy and peace."

In his own message, the 44th president alluded to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, noting that this holiday is altogether different than those of years' past. Still, he encouraged everyone to celebrate the season of giving.

"This Christmas looks different for all of us. As we spend time with those we love — in person or virtually — let us celebrate the blessings we cherish, embrace the spirit of giving, and look out for one another," he wrote, in part. "From my family to yours, Merry Christmas!"