Dear Mr. President,
Happy Presidents' day. I read somewhere that your favorite President was Lincoln. I suppose he was all right. I'll admit that my fascination with the presidency comes in no small part from my love of The West Wing and, while watching an episode recently that discusses the difficulty being President in the shadow of men like Lincoln, I considered how you must feel about this. Every man who has served in your office has done so, I'm convinced, with the intention to Do Right by the people. Some certainly succeed more than others, but those that we remember best generally do so in the face of the greatest challenges. I have no illusions about the work that must be done for this country, or the glory in succeeding in health care reform or economic recovery, but there is nothing in this day and age that could compare to abolishing slavery. How fitting that Lincoln has been immortalized as he has, the larger-than life memorial looming over the mall in all of its glory, a monument not to his humanity, but to the huge burden of his legacy. I admire you, for daring to follow in such immense footsteps, in times that are perhaps even more challenging.
When I lived in DC I generally visited the memorials only when showing visiting friends around the city. I lived out in the east side of the city, and worked on L street. When I was transferred to a bookstore on F street, which required me to walk past The White House each day, I was elated. I'd start my day getting coffee spun to me through bullet-proof glass, get on the metro, and suddenly be walking in front of the President's home. DC is so surreal like that, the humblest of us passing so near to those in power. I never saw President Bush while I lived there, and I don't know that I would have cared to, much. I'll admit this was a time when my disappointment in my country was its strongest, and President Bush was a frequent reminder that I was living in a nation that did not seem to share my moral views. Since your election, I've often wondered how I'd feel if I still lived in DC, still worked down the street from the White House. I don't regret leaving, but I do miss it, sometimes.
I think for me, men like President Lincoln seem to be more fiction than fact. I'm sure that Lincoln was every bit as heroic as legend paints him, but I have a difficult time calling him my favorite. It honestly seems a bit like saying my favorite animal is a Triceratops. They may have been real, but I'm never going to know what they were really like. And so, while it may be hollow praise from a person who has lived under only 4 different Presidents, I think I can say, confidently, that you're my favorite, or at least the one I'll be thinking the most of this President's Day. You may never be President Lincoln, but I think our day demands a different kind of President, and I hope very much that you live up to that demand without wondering if it will always be overshadowed by the legends of your own heroes. I don't feel alienated by my government, these days, and, to me, that is its own kind of heroic.