Alice Walker writes to Barack Obama

// 11 November 2008

Here’s her letter to the President Elect.

Nov. 5, 2008

Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people’s enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely. However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people’s spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.

A good model of how to “work with the enemy” internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

In Peace and Joy,

Alice Walker

From The Root via Global Sisterhood Network.

Comments From You

Felicity // Posted 11 November 2008 at 8:28 pm

what a wonderful letter, truly inspiring!

Fan // Posted 12 November 2008 at 4:43 am

“I would further advise you not to take on other people‚Äôs enemies.”

This I cannot agree with. Tell the poor people dying in Darfur that we will not come to their rescue because we wish not to have enemies. Yes, look at Tibet. Look at those poor people dying trying to take back their own country that they love so much and tell them that their struggle isn’t worthwhile. The Dalai Lama is a great person and I respect him. However, he has failed to stop the suffering of the people within the country of Tibet. They are still being oppressed by the abusive Chinese government. While you may be able to sit by and allow such terrible things to go on I cannot accept it. I will continue to pressure government to take steps to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

I agree that modern techniques must be used to prevent unnecessary violence against innocent people,and it has at times been misused. However, we need to fix these issues not stop helping others and take an isolated approach.

Louise Livesey // Posted 12 November 2008 at 9:44 am

I think Walker was probably referring to the Bush government’s desire to invade every Middle Eastern country with oil reserves – Afghanistan, Iraq and the reported desire to attack Iran. But you’re absolutely right how it could be misconstrued.

Mayo Adeyemi // Posted 14 November 2008 at 3:20 am

Barack would dn well to frame this for oval room. I am a Nigerian ”…feminist ally…” who hopes that black women everywhere will encourage, cajole and kick black men to dream better, do better be better because while racism is far from dead the old excuses for the deadbeat black man dhe jan 20th

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