WASHINGTON — Almost one year after the election of President Trump, many liberals are still longing for his predecessor, Barack Obama. And Obama has crafted a letter that he’s sending to people who express their worries to him about the current political climate, assuring them “I hear your concerns, and I want you to know I’m listening.”
“Our country’s progress has never followed a straight line — for every two steps forward, it often feels like we take one step back. But I hope you’ll remember that the long sweep of America is defined by forward motion, and the course we chart from here depends on no one person alone,” Obama wrote in the letter.
Obama currently accepts correspondence on his website and, via regular mail, at his office. Yahoo News received the letter from Obama after sending him a series of interview questions. (The former president has not done any interviews since leaving office.) A spokesperson for Obama said that, like many former presidents, he receives a large volume of mail on a variety of topics, and Obama’s office confirmed that the letter sent to Yahoo News is one he sends to people who share concerns about his legacy being dismantled, the general state of the country or those who seek his perspective on the new administration.
The letter echoes language Obama used in his farewell speech and in other public appearances he’s made in the wake of the election. Since leaving office, Obama has largely abided by the tradition of former presidents refraining from criticizing their successors. However, he has indicated he might speak out on specific issues. In the letter, he encourages other people to get involved.
“Our destiny will be decided the same way it always has been: by all of us; by we, the people: by selfless and engaged citizens who step forward and speak out to guard the values that make us who we are — not just when there’s an election, but every day,” Obama wrote.
Among Obama’s inner circle, there is some debate about the relatively low profile he’s taken following Trump’s election. Some of Obama’s former White House and campaign staffers are frustrated that he hasn’t done more to oppose Trump. Other ex-Obama aides who spoke to Yahoo News said they appreciate his restraint and believe it will increase the impact when he does choose to take on specific issues. One former campaign staffer said it was encouraging that Obama has begun campaigning for other Democrats, including Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam. Taking on Trump directly, in this former staffer’s view, runs the risk of becoming a foil for him. “The guy’s desperate for an opponent. I mean, Trump would love nothing more than for the 2020 election to start today and no better opponent than the black, ‘Muslim,’ Obamacare president.”
Obama concluded his letter with both a warning and an optimistic prediction.
“Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted, and change only happens when people get involved,” Obama wrote. “As long as folks like you keep looking out for others and working to defend America’s promise, I’m confident our future will be bright. Please know Michelle and I will continue standing alongside you.”
Read Obama’s full letter below.