Dear Mr. President,
I wrote you yesterday about my mother's strengths and the many things she has taught me. Perhaps the most important lessons she has passed down are the ones she never intended to; the lessons I learned, not from her strength, but her shortcomings. My mother is not a saint. She is quick to anger, often hijacked by her emotions and was unable to prepare me for the same feelings that would take over, without warning, the despair and the rage and the inexplicable rapidity and intensity with which they would strike. She often became angry or emotional without warning or obvious provocation, and, as I find myself disposed to the same behavior, I have nothing from her to look to for how to manage it.
Growing up, she never sought to control us, something I'm sure was considered a weakness in a parent, though I think it granted her children somewhat more in the way of independence, if we occasionally lack in discipline and direction. This taught me to take responsibility for my actions; to do what I believe to be right, to question rules and limitations arbitrarily imposed upon me by others. While I might at times have wished for the ease and simplicity of being given the solutions, my mother seemed to believe it was more important for me to find my own answers, than to ensure that I arrived at the right one.
My mother's failings have taught me that it is acceptable to be human. To make mistakes. To succumb to emotion. To fail, apologize, and try again. She has allowed me to know and to understand her as a person, not just as a faultless maternal symbol. This acceptance of weakness and fault in another person is essential to develop compassion, empathy and self-awareness. I see this lacking so often in our society, be it in our feigned shock at the human shortcomings of our leaders, or in our lack of compassion for those who have made bad choices, regardless of the desperation of the circumstances. I suppose expecting a lot from other people is good, we do, at times, surprise ourselves by living up to the best of what other people expect of us; but demands for perfect must, inevitably, be only requests for deception or disappointment, two things most of us will encounter far too often, anyway.
And so, in that spirit, I write you today in order to praise my mother's faults, her errors and her eccentricities; her failures and her bad judgment. As my first, and most significant teacher, she has, though these errors, given me the ability to accept them in others, and in myself. In this time of such deep uncertainty, it is reassuring to know that I can still count on people, even when I find their perfection lacking.