President Obama marked his 55th birthday on Thursday with a reflective essay for Glamour magazine, in which he reflected on his experience of being raised by a single mother and raising two daughters of his own.
Obama wrote that working from home in the White House allowed him to watch his daughters, Malia and Sasha, grow into “smart, funny, kind, wonderful young women.” He noted that this journey hasn’t always been easy, especially as he prepares for them to reach adulthood and “leave the nest.”
“One thing that makes me optimistic for them is that this is an extraordinary time to be a woman,” Obama wrote. “The progress we’ve made in the past 100 years, 50 years, and, yes, even the past eight years has made life significantly better for my daughters than it was for my grandmothers. And I say that not just as President but also as a feminist.”
Obama noted that although women have made great strides, stereotypes and gender politics still impede this progress. Obama wrote that he would continue to work on policies that promote equal pay and protect women’s reproductive rights but that some changes cannot be made via legislation.
“The most important change may be the toughest of all — and that’s changing ourselves,” Obama wrote.
“We need to keep changing the attitude that permits the routine harassment of women, whether they’re walking down the street or daring to go online,” he continued. “We need to keep changing the attitude that teaches men to feel threatened by the presence and success of women.”
“We need to keep changing a culture that shines a particularly unforgiving light on women and girls of color. Michelle has often spoken about this. Even after achieving success in her own right, she still held doubts; she had to worry about whether she looked the right way or was acting the right way—whether she was being too assertive or too ‘angry.’”
Obama went on to tout Hillary Clinton’s historic campaign for the presidency.
“Two hundred and forty years after our nation’s founding, and almost a century after women finally won the right to vote, for the first time ever, a woman is a major political party’s presidential nominee,” he wrote. “No matter your political views, this is a historic moment for America. And it’s just one more example of how far women have come on the long journey toward equality.”
He also gave a nod to Harriet Tubman, an African-American abolitionist whose image will soon appear on the $20 bill.
“I want all of our daughters and sons to see that this, too, is their inheritance,” he wrote. “I want them to know that it’s never been just about the Benjamins; it’s about the Tubmans too.”