November 6th, 2008
07:01 PM ET

An open letter to Barack Obama

By Alice Walker

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.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Raw Politics
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. PE

    To all who are uncomfortable with President Obama, or worst all you who harbor hate in your hearts against him, due to fear of the "unknown"...Please relax. Your world will not come to an end. The sun will come up tomarrow. And have a little faith in the country that you loved ever so much , just last week.

    Do you still consider yourselves to be Americans ? If so then stop acting like subversives, and respect the 44th president, like you did all the ones before him. Have faith in America, if you truely love America.

    November 7, 2008 at 9:49 am |
  2. Sista Tabia

    ...and let's not overlook the orginality of the First Lady and Children. They are African American and have every right to be an example for boldness, beauty and blackness. They have every right to express their historical culture. Needless to say, I am anticipating the First Family alter the image of what Americans should wear, look lik, do a act out. Lets face it as African American Females sometimes we like to wear different hair styles, dress styles, shoe styles...we just like to be different and make our statements in colors, shapes and different lengths. We like to display our individualism when making a bold statement about our culture. So its a new day ...a new beginning, 2008...a time for Change and New Beginnings. Its Not just the same ole way. Finally, if Mr. President is happy with his girls style than America may need to realize they are FREE and we may need to follow the First Family example and not follow the good ole boys ways of what Americans look like.

    November 7, 2008 at 9:08 am |
  3. Dulcie

    Thank you Ms. Walker for those beautiful words. I'm another white, middle-aged woman who was proud to vote for the most qualified candidate without regard to his skin color. That said, I'm also proud to be a part of the millions of all races who helped break that last barrier for people of color. This is a victory for the American people.

    November 7, 2008 at 9:00 am |
  4. E S Eby

    How have we come to deserve a man with the intelligence of Kennedy and Clinton, the coolness under pressure of an FDR, the character of Carter, the speaking skills of a Reagan, and the love of family of Truman all in one. Add to that the racial inheritance of both black and white, and is there any question why we voted for you.

    God keep you safe! You truly represent us.

    November 7, 2008 at 8:48 am |
  5. Linda C, South Dakota

    If Obama is half and half why does the black side get so much of the news reports. Just because he happened to turn out a black color, does not mean there isn't white bloodlines there too. Why does only the black part get all the glory. We did not get a black man for president. We got part of one. Why doesn't the press ever say anything about his white heritage? We know very little about his white background. We need to know more about it. He is Kenya and white right. Is his sister more white then black?
    By the way, where did Michelle get that terrible black and red dress for the acceptance speech. Looks like she is telling us she is going to have another baby. Made her look really weird like she was wanting people to look at her top and middle parts. Not a very good image to start off a new change with or to guide their girls in. Oh please, Michelle get some class, you already look old and over the hill.
    May God Bless US.

    November 7, 2008 at 7:37 am |
  6. Yvonne

    Ms Walker's article speaks thousands to the need for balance in ALL our lives. What a beautiful piece of advice to the Obama family...don't get caught up but continue to take time for each other...as you did during the campaign. I can see the strong family values in the Obama's. If Mr. Obama can just stop the deterioration of our country in his first term, he will have had a successful presidency. I'm praying for your continued love for God, Family, and Country!

    Bless you, Vonn

    November 7, 2008 at 7:15 am |
  7. Kent Fitzsimmons,Kewanee, IL

    I think a lot of what is said in this story applies to some of the bloggers here. We all need to be happy with ourselves in order to be happy with others. It's amazing to see the far Right bloggers still hating and practicing tactics to divide..........when this country needs to come together so badly. The author is incredibly correct with this article. Obama must be very centered and happy to shine as bright as he does. His family must love him so much for him to make everyone feel so good right now. This World mess in the grand scheme of things will work itself out........with help from everyone. Not, just Obama. Creativity and great ideas come from within. It cannot come from someone who is not open to experiencing personal joy. What you give is returned to you. So lets give Obama the space to have a chance at the Change he envisions for us all.

    November 7, 2008 at 6:54 am |
  8. kesang

    I believe in you Alice. What you say has a profound message for everyone, not just the President elect – there is much truth, insight and wisdom that reflects in your letter. True, HH The Dalai Lama is a living legend and a manifestation of compassion, peace and non-violence. Though he loses hope on the Chinese Authorities, his spirit lives on in many many Tibetans around the world who will carry forward their struggle for freedom across the globe.

    November 7, 2008 at 4:36 am |
  9. jt

    ACORN gave him the Presidency.

    It is show time! I do not want to hear fancy speaches anymore.

    I want to see all this good judgement that you are going to make.

    Get to work and get it done right.

    I know all the promises you made.

    November 7, 2008 at 1:00 am |
  10. Samantha, Chicago, IL.

    First, you are from Georgia. You ought to know better than anyone that your fore fathers put the one drop rule on the books that is still in existence to this very day. Bi racial is NOT listed on any application I've ever filled out. You just go into rural Georgia and ask an old white Southerner what race President – Elect Barack Obama is. Trust me, bi- racial will be the furthest name that will come out of their mouths. Just ask about Thomas Jefferson and the 5 black kids he fathered. They were put in the fields with the rest of the slaves.

    Second, we are just one of many nations in this world. I find it absurd that you don't think that to run this country efficently, you must try to establish an alliance with ALL nations. A wise man once said, keep your friends close, keep your enemies even closer.

    Third, about foreign affairs; DUH! Why do you think he chose Joe Biden as his V.P.? He's the foreign affairs powerhouse of the Senate. Obama is not stupid. That was a strategic plan on his part.

    Look, don't believe everything you THINK you may know until you have both sides of the story. There is 2 sides of every story and in the middle lies the truth.

    November 6, 2008 at 10:45 pm |

    Truly this a great historic time for "WE THE PEOPLE" as well as for the Obama family. There is a divine reason why President Obama was born when he was, to parents of different countries, resided in Indonesia; already by his geneology he has united at least 3 different countries. By his charisma and divine wisdom, he continues to draw other countries to him in unity of hope for a better world. I feel Mr. Obama was born for this time and this purpose, to unite us as a nation and as a world. We are all God's creation having the same daily living needs. With his leadership, there is hope for living more in unity and love for our nation and each other. I thank him for the courage and enduring strength he has shown in his run for the Presidency.

    November 6, 2008 at 10:40 pm |
  12. David

    Some people really need to read a book and or actually pay attention to the world in a first, second and third point of view. To say the Pres Elect Obama is a big part in the major slump in the economy is complete slander. One single man cannot by any means force a back to do anything of the such. If anything by Obama and Emanuel working with these companies they merely shared ideas and opinions and discussed possible strategies to get on a road of success.

    November 6, 2008 at 10:36 pm |
  13. Shirley

    Nice letter from Alice Walker. President elect Obama will be a very good president for ALL the people black, white, democrats, republicans etc.. It may take some time for those republicans who did not vote for him to realize this because they ran such a hateful and devisive campaign. I could never understand why Sarah Palin would have her young children sitting among such an angry and ungodly rally. I don't think she's a good mother and certainly does not set a good example for her children! John McCain has no one to blame but Himself for losing the election...he ran a very negative, devisive campaign and picked a poor choice for a running mate.


    November 6, 2008 at 10:18 pm |
  14. Betty, Virginia

    I understand african americans being proud of an african american president. I am very pleased to see that history is moving forward. I am however, proud of President-elect Obama for being intelligent, accepting, uniting, mature, focused and understanding man as well as a natural leader. The fact that he has made history is icing on the cake for me. I'm also elated at the world's reacation to him.

    November 6, 2008 at 10:08 pm |
  15. alice houston tx

    i just want to say that most of us that voted for obama is because of the crisis we are in not because we wanted history but obama seems to understand the problems of people in the usa ... and for the case of color we need to get beyond that ....one thing i know is that obama will not fail and i know there people thinking he will fail but the devil is a liar.... besides he took the heat of people saying he is arab where in the world do people get all things from? am glad that macain was very mature in accepting defeat and even how much he is willing to work with obama....for BUSH personally i would not miss him not even for a second really i never seen a man who has no remoarse because he grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth and he didnt care ..BUSH GOOD RIDDENS

    November 6, 2008 at 9:57 pm |

    Obama i cant wait for you to be our next president... i hope you and your family have a great time at the white house....your kids are so proud of you and i bet they are happy about getting a new puppy.........................................................

    November 6, 2008 at 9:49 pm |
  17. Cam, Atlanta


    It is clear by his light complexion and photos of his family that Barack Obama is mixed. It should not bother you when African Americans call him African American or Black and not mixed, BECAUSE he addresses himself as such.

    CBS had an interview asking him why he does not identify himself as mixed. He stated that when he is in NY trying to catch a cab WHITE cab drivers pass him by, not thinking..."there goes that bi-racial man." They see Black no matter the shade! If you don't think so, try bringing one home to your father and say you're dating him. I betcha he won't say, Great a biracial!"

    November 6, 2008 at 9:43 pm |
  18. Annie Kate

    Listening to Obama's victory speech I found myself hoping that Obama would continue to appeal to the better sides of our natures like JFK did in the 1960s. If he can inspire people to get more involved in their communities and in solving joint problems and helping each other, he will have accomplished much. Obama has the support and the issues to leave his positive mark on our country's history as surely as Abraham Lincoln did. I hope that Obama's wisdom is as deep as his talent to inspire.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    November 6, 2008 at 9:33 pm |
  19. Chamieka

    I am SO sick of people saying that he is the first "Black president of the United States" Number one, the man isn't even black. If anything he is AFRICAN.. and just African alone. We are unintentionally stereotyping him by saying "First Black president" and we should stop. This is a joyous moment for people all over the world. For so long Caucasian Americans were in control, and still have control for the most part of this country. What happened Tuesday night is one persons ultimate success but a great lead by example. This is NOT only about black people. This shows the progression this country has made as a whole and I pray & hope to see new doors open for everyone. We must unite, not divide.


    November 6, 2008 at 9:30 pm |
  20. Ossie Richards

    Cindy, whenever there is a first, this is what happens. When there is a second or third Black president, the you may have a point.

    You also misunderstood Ms. Walker. She is not saying that he should not do the job he has been elected to do, but to be balanced about it. He did not create the situation, but he is willing to try to remedy so many problems that his administration will inherit. In other words it is not necessary to be as in a mythology the man who carries the wold on his shoulders, but rather with the best help he can gather and with the support of the people, deal with the problems of this country face together.


    November 6, 2008 at 9:28 pm |
  21. Joshua Turner,Kansas city,Mo.

    The people who voted for Obama realized that this election was not just about the policy differences of the two parties,but it was about a restored hope that real change is possible.Change that we have put our blood,sweat and tears into.
    I am a 30 year old redneck from Missouri and I am proud to say that voted for a black man for president.In the small towns I grew up in and the racism that I have seen is more than most people can imagine.For the first time in my short life I actually feel good about the direction of this country.My 90 year old great grandmother and I are the only two people in the whole family that voted for Obama.I had already made up my mind that I was going to vote for Obama a long time ago,but when my grandma called me up and told me that she was going to vote for Obama I knew right then that this country had come along way in race relations.I love this country and I love what it stands for and I will do anything to help insure that we do not take away from the great advances that we made on 11-04-08.This is a day that will live forever.

    November 6, 2008 at 8:59 pm |
  22. Jean

    I have not read any women's names as potential appointees to cabinet positions so far. Where are they?

    November 6, 2008 at 8:58 pm |
  23. olivia edwin

    i think that it was nice of u to write to Mr.Barack Obama.

    November 6, 2008 at 8:58 pm |
  24. Sue, Billerica, MA

    Beautiful words.

    I have the feeling President-elect Obama is going to enjoy the hard work and is driven to excel and that means reading, listening, meeting,analyzing, weighing options and he will put in long hours but he is also a very balanced man and will take the time to enjoy his family.

    White people too are uplifted by Obama for as this election showed we too want to live up to MLK's ideals, and although black people have done all the suffering on the side of racism, white people have all the shame, even if we are not racists ourselves, and Obama and what he has achieved is a small step in healing us all, plus he is going to be one of the best presidents and is the right man for the right job at the right time... it gives me pause that maybe God does guide us sometimes when we really really need it, for this country really really needed a President Obama whose judgement and wisdom and fairness and thoughfulness is rare and ready!

    Thank you again for your beautiful words and may this President not only do a great job as i know he will but may he enjoy the ride!

    November 6, 2008 at 8:45 pm |
  25. Larry

    What's it got to do with Africans who chose to live in America after they were set free? POTUS-elect obama is not descended from slaves; his dad came here of his own free will and like many african men before him and even today abandoned his wife and son.
    The disaster you refer to was perhaps not created by obama; however, elements of his party were major players ie: Dodd, Frank, Pelosi, Penny Pritzker ( the queen of subprime mortgages), etc. There's lots of blame to go around.

    I'm surprised that a group using the term 'TheRoot', has not done their genealogical and DNA background on POTUS-elect obama; on his dad's side he is of arab descent. Research it, if you want the real root and then you may get some respect from those of us who truly have a passion for the truth.

    November 6, 2008 at 7:40 pm |
  26. xtina, chicago IL

    oh please, Barack did create the state of the country. He and Rahm Emanuel did play a big part in the economy tanking. Both of them worked closely with Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, Emanuel was on their board. Barack actually forced banks to remove restrictions on loans. Barack Obama caused the economy he inherits.

    November 6, 2008 at 7:35 pm |
  27. Shawnee

    Pres Elect Barack Obama, is definetly a symbol for peace, he embraces all walks of life, he does not stand for one people, he stands for all people. I love that about him. I know his grandmother, must be smiling down on him from heaven.

    Thank you,
    Shawnee Thomas

    November 6, 2008 at 7:20 pm |
  28. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT

    AMAZING, Ms. Walker! Thank you! I love the line:

    "Seeing you take your rightful pace, based SOLELY on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about." BEAUTIFUL.

    Being a Caucasian-middle-aged-wife-and-mother, I was SO proud to elect President-elect Obama! Everyone I know here in Utah, voted for Obama. NOT because he is African-American, but because he IS the most qualified, most brilliant, and the one candidate that touched our HEARTS with his inspirational speeches!

    May God bless Barack & Michelle Obama & family!

    November 6, 2008 at 7:16 pm |
  29. Cindy

    For one...Obama is the president for everyone and not just the blacks. I'm tired of hearing he is the first black president. The fact is he is mixed and you are discounting his white heritage by only calling him black.

    Secondly...it is his job as president to get this nation back in balance and to try to make peace when ever he can in the world. To say that it isn't is absurd.

    Third...He can not go into the foreign affairs arena with his eyes closed. He does have to look at who is our enemies now and in the past. You can't go blindly and talk to some of these people thinking that they will treat you any different than they treat anyone else. They'll run all over you.


    November 6, 2008 at 7:12 pm |
  30. jay

    I am glad to see a black man in office I did not however vote for you only due to your lack of experience. You are very well spoken and intelligent I do wish you the best and hope you are honest in what you have said in the past. I also wish you would try to unit the country by stopping as much racism as possible this means both sides!

    November 6, 2008 at 7:09 pm |