Dad, husband, President, citizen.
I wrote out some thoughts on how to make this moment a real turning point to bring about real change––and pulled together some resources to help young activists sustain the momentum by channeling their energy into concrete action.
I want to share parts of the conversations I’ve had with friends over the past couple days about the footage of George Floyd dying face down on the street under the knee of a police officer in Minnesota. The first is an email from a middle-aged African American businessman. “Dude I gotta tell you the George Floyd incident in Minnesota hurt. I cried when I saw that video. It broke me down. The ‘knee on the neck’ is a metaphor for how the system so cavalierly holds black folks down, ignoring the cries for help. People don’t care. Truly tragic.” Another friend of mine used the powerful song that went viral from 12-year-old Keedron Bryant to describe the frustrations he was feeling. The circumstances of my friend and Keedron may be different, but their anguish is the same. It’s shared by me and millions of others. It’s natural to wish for life “to just get back to normal” as a pandemic and economic crisis upend everything around us. But we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly “normal” – whether it’s while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in a park. This shouldn’t be “normal” in 2020 America. It can’t be “normal.” If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better. It will fall mainly on the officials of Minnesota to ensure that the circumstances surrounding George Floyd’s death are investigated thoroughly and that justice is ultimately done. But it falls on all of us, regardless of our race or station – including the majority of men and women in law enforcement who take pride in doing their tough job the right way, every day – to work together to create a “new normal” in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts.
On Memorial Day, we honor those who gave their all for us. That takes different forms this year, but it’s even more vital with the loss of so many veterans to COVID-19. The way they all lived, in service to one another, should be our roadmap in the months ahead.
Times of crisis can bring out the best in us, and Natalie Gao, a medical student in Boston, is a good example of that. Eager to help her community, she created @offtheirplate , a grassroots nonprofit organization that was formed at the beginning of March to support local restaurants and frontline healthcare workers. “Off Their Plate is about the human impact of the pandemic,” Natalie said. “We exist to support those on the dual frontlines of this unprecedented crisis—our healthcare workers healing the sick, and our restaurant workers fueling the fight.” This volunteer-led organization has expanded into nine cities and continues to provide economic support to restaurant workers while also delivering free meals to folks on the frontlines. Off Their Plate is making an impact not only for the healthcare workers they feed, but the restaurants they’ve helped support to stay in business during this time. It’s a terrific example of what we can do to show up for our communities.
I couldn’t be prouder of this year’s graduating high school seniors––as well as the teachers, coaches, and most of all, parents and family who’ve guided you along the way. Graduating is a big achievement under any circumstances––let alone during a pandemic. And some of you have had to overcome serious obstacles along the way to make it here. What remains true is that your graduation marks your passage into adulthood––the time when you begin to take charge of your own life. So here’s my quick advice: Be fearless. Always do what you think is right. And work to build a community. No one does big things all by themselves. When you need help, Michelle and I have made it the mission of the @ObamaFoundation to give young people like you the skills and support you need to be leaders—and to connect you with other young people around the globe. But you don’t need us to tell you what to do, because in so many ways, you’ve already shown us how it’s done. Congratulations, Class of 2020––keep making us proud.
Our public libraries are essential institutions––and that’s why we’re bringing a new branch of the @chicagopubliclibrary to the Obama Presidential Center on the South Side. Michelle and I want to do our part to give all you parents a break today, so we’re reading “The Word Collector.” It’s a fun book that vividly illustrates the transformative power of words––and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
Even if you can’t give the moms in your life a hug today, I hope you can give them an extra thank you today. Thank you and Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who makes it all possible. Love you, @michelleobama .
Our medical professionals continue to put their lives on the line to make sure we’re able to get through this moment. And we’re so grateful for all that they’re doing to keep us safe. Today, I’ll be sharing the story of a physician on the frontlines, Dr. Sherene Fakhran. Dr. Fakhran specializes in pulmonary and critical care and has been working at @cookcountyhealth Hospital in Chicago for the last ten years. These last few months have been difficult, but she credits the efforts of the entire hospital - the doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, custodians, and support staff - for doing their part to keep the hospital going to tend to COVID-19 patients in critical need. Dr. Fakhran shares more about her experience while working in the intensive care unit at Cook County Health: “A big part of what we do in the ICU is to communicate and build a relationship with the patients and families. Speaking with families has become more challenging. We also try to facilitate video calls with patients and families to help them feel connected or at times say goodbye. Although, I have been working with critically ill patients for many years, this experience has been very emotional.” “What gives me the most hope is how people have come together to support in whatever way they can––from bringing in food to making PPE for our staff. All the providers in our division have also done an outstanding job staying positive, supporting each other, and rising up to the challenge. Most importantly, seeing some of our sickest patients recover and actually go home has been the best feeling of all.”
There’s no limit to the devotion I’ve seen in teachers like these educators from @ChiPubSchools . Their dedication shapes the best parts of who we become. I couldn’t be more thankful for their work, especially as they shift lessons online to keep students on track during this crisis.
I’ve always loved joining commencements––the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice. Even if we can’t get together in person this year, Michelle and I are excited to celebrate the nationwide Class of 2020 and recognize this milestone with you and your loved ones.
Just a little over a year ago around Thanksgiving, I got to spend some time with the Greater Chicago @fooddepository . Even in the relatively good times, I know how difficult their work is—and how dedicated they are to making sure no one in our hometown goes hungry. In this crisis, they’ve seen a huge increase in demand for their services, and become even more of a lifeline to Chicago families in need. I couldn’t be prouder of the way they continue their work. It’s selflessness like theirs that keeps kids from going hungry, and makes the world a better place.
Six years ago, I started @MBK_Alliance to address the opportunity gaps facing our boys and young men of color, knowing that America could never reach its potential if they couldn’t reach theirs. We wanted to make sure they weren’t being left behind by helping them receive the mentorship, resources, and opportunities they deserved. These past few weeks, the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance has been hosting virtual town halls to check-in with community leaders looking out for communities of color that have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. I had a chance to join one of these calls, and it looks like this bright kid here, Avi, tuned into our conversation. Across the country, our young people—just like Avi—are listening in and watching how we’re helping out during this time. It’s a reminder that this work is more important than ever, and that we must continue to support all our communities.
On this day 50 years ago, millions of people from every corner of our country joined in common cause to demand basic protections to safeguard our planet for future generations. The first Earth Day helped transform the ways we interact with the world around us, and it changed how we viewed our impact on the natural world––inspiring the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and landmark legislation that protected the air we breathe, the water we drank, and the animals that lived alongside us. ⠀ ⠀ Today, we’re reminded more than ever of the role we play–and the responsibility of our government––to ensure that we do not pass a world beyond repair on to our children. And that starts by not denying the evidence presented by scientists and climate activists around climate change. We must demand more from our government, return to the Paris Agreement, and work to lead the world in reducing the pollution that continues to cause climate change. And science is telling us to go much further––we must continue to accelerate progress on bold new green initiatives that make our economy a clean energy innovator. ⠀ ⠀ When I think of the world I want to see in the future for my daughters––and the children across the world––I’m reminded that there is so much more we need to do to take care of the one planet we've got, and it’s up to all of us to demand and lead that change.
It doesn’t take a pandemic to see how vital mentorship programs are to our communities—they ensure young people, especially those growing up in underserved neighborhoods, don’t get left behind. I’d like to share the story of one mentorship organization going above and beyond in my hometown. ⠀ ⠀ Since 2005, New Life Centers of Chicagoland, a MBK Alliance Seed Community partner organization, has been providing mentorship and outreach to kids in the Little Village, Brighton Park, Humboldt Park, and Midway neighborhoods. The idea is that mentors and youth “walk together” through life—not just in the big moments, but through all the milestones in between so they never have to feel like they’re alone.⠀ ⠀ New Life Centers knew that this crisis wouldn’t just change the way their mentorship programming worked––they knew they had to adapt to meet the new needs of the youth they served. And for a lot of the families in their neighborhoods, the crisis has made a disproportionate impact. It meant hunger. It meant loss. But it didn’t mean losing hope. ⠀ ⠀ Since Chicago started sheltering in place, New Life Centers has been safely distributing healthy food to more than 400 families a week. They’ve also kept up their mentoring, tutoring, street outreach and even deployed video game consoles for virtual tournaments to keep up a little joyful communication and competition while families stay home. They’re still making sure that no kid has to walk alone, even if they can’t walk together right now. ⠀ ⠀ When you ask New Life Centers staff what keeps them motivated to see this work through, it’s an answer that rings true for so many organizations just like theirs: “Our young people keep us motivated. We know they’re facing the same challenges we are. And that’s why we do the work. We just want to make sure they know they have someone in their corner.”
If there’s one thing we’ve learned as a country from moments of great crisis, it’s that the American spirit of looking out for one another can’t be restricted to our homes, or our workplaces, or our neighborhoods, or our houses of worship. It also has to be reflected in our national government. The kind of leadership that’s guided by knowledge and experience; honesty and humility; empathy and grace – that kind of leadership doesn’t just belong in our state capitols and mayors offices. It belongs in the White House. That’s why I’m so proud to endorse @JoeBiden for President of the United States. Choosing Joe to be my Vice President was one of the best decisions I ever made. He’s got the character and the experience to guide us through one of our darkest times and heal us through a long recovery. And I’ve got a lot more to say about why Joe should be President in the video. I hope you give it a watch. Then I hope you’ll join us at JoeBiden.com and make a plan for how you’re going to get involved.
Although our celebrations may look different this year, our unwavering faith remains the same. For me, Easter is a time of hope––a reminder of rebirth and renewal––and a belief in a better day to come. From my family to yours, we wish you all a blessed and joyful Easter.
We owe a profound debt of gratitude to all the people working on the frontlines. From our medical professionals to our grocery store clerks, we’ve seen people step up and make endless sacrifices to help us get through this pandemic. Today, I’ll be sharing the story of one of those leaders on the frontlines and my friend, @chefjoseandres . ⠀ ⠀ Throughout this pandemic, his organization the @wckitchen has stepped up to support over 20 cities across the country. Here’s what motivates Jose and how we all can play a role in supporting our communities: ⠀ ⠀ “We are living a moment that will define generations. We will look back on these days as the world changes into something new, and we will ask ourselves…what did we do to help? To help the marginalized and vulnerable, to help the heroes working on the front lines, to help the huddled masses among us? ⠀ ⠀ From Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico to the wildfires in California, to tornadoes and floods across the country to a humanitarian crisis on our southern border, World Central Kitchen’s journey to serving over 15 million meals has taught us one essential lesson: instead of being paralyzed by the magnitude of a problem, we can choose to be part of the solution by coming together to just start cooking.” ⠀ ⠀ “There are so, so many ways you can help. Buy a meal for the medical professionals and first responders working day and night to keep us healthy and safe. Check in on elderly neighbors to make sure they aren’t forgotten. Wash your hands. Stay home if you can and listen to the experts, always. Being kind and caring for one another. Make sure to leave enough for the next person. Your empathy will reach beyond six feet!”
Cecilia Muñoz has been a champion for immigration and civil rights, a MacArthur Fellow recipient, and a great friend––and I was proud to have her on my team as one of my senior advisors during my presidency. In her new book, More Than Ready, she shares her story and an empowering message to women, especially women of color, that they are the leaders we need to make a change in our world.
The Reverend Joseph Lowery was born and raised in Jim Crow Alabama with no power or privilege to speak of. But he had preaching in his blood. He had a conviction that he could join and inspire others to push for change. From those early days of the movement to his long leadership of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he did so much to carry us ever closer to the just, fair, inclusive, and generous America promised in our founding ideals. Reverend Lowery changed the face of America. He carried the baton longer and surer than almost anybody. It falls to the rest of us now to pick it up and never stop moving forward until we finish what he started–that journey to justice. Michelle and I remember him fondly today, and our love and prayers are with his family and his nationwide flock.
In America, we all share the responsibility of looking out for one another. That’s never more true than in times like right now. And as long as so many of us are at home, here’s a new film that shows that responsibility in action. @CripCampFilm shares the stories of the young people who went on to lead the disability rights movement – young people without wealth, or power, or sometimes even respect, who came together to change this country’s course. It’s eye-opening, uplifting, and full of the kind of empathy for others that all of us need to summon going forward.
Ten years ago today, I signed the Affordable Care Act into law. It protected preexisting conditions, cut the uninsured rate in half, and lots more. But it's still under political attack right when we need care the most. We have to protect it, build on it, until we cover everyone.
55 years ago, in Selma, Alabama, John Lewis and Amelia Boynton Robinson were two of the many civil rights organizers who were beaten for the simple act of attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. In 2015, Michelle and I, along with Michelle’s mother and our girls – three generations, hand-in-hand – joined these heroes to walk the path that they had paved. The story of Selma is quintessentially American – it’s the story of ordinary people coming together to shape our nation’s course because they believed in the simple idea that people who love their country can change it. Today, the march goes on. But the way forward is a little easier, thanks to all those who came before us, who sacrificed everything for the foundation stone of democracy – the right to vote. Now it’s up to us to honor their legacy by protecting and exercising that precious right, knowing that the work of perfecting our union is never done.
Six years ago today, we launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative at the White House, a call on us all to recognize that America would never live up to its potential unless our boys and young men of color could live up to theirs. We all have a stake in their success. We are all our brother’s keeper. This photo was taken at a gathering of the young people whose lives that work has touched, many of them now leaders and mentors themselves. When I entered the auditorium, I saw a room full of promising young men who deserved a nation willing to embrace them, invest in their dreams, and love them as their own.