It’s a long-standing tradition for the sitting president of the United States to leave a parting letter in the Oval Office for the American elected to take his or her place. It’s a letter meant to share what we know, what we’ve learned, and what small wisdom may help our successor bear the great responsibility that comes with the highest office in our land, and the leadership of the free world.
But before I leave my note for our 45th president, I wanted to say one final thank you for the honor of serving as your 44th. Because all that I’ve learned in my time in office, I’ve learned from you. You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.
Throughout these eight years, you have been the source of goodness, resilience, and hope from which I’ve pulled strength. I’ve seen neighbors and communities take care of each other during the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. I have mourned with grieving families searching for answers – and found grace in a Charleston church.
I’ve taken heart from the hope of young graduates and our newest military officers. I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch, and wounded warriors once given up for dead walk again. I’ve seen Americans whose lives have been saved because they finally have access to medical care, and families whose lives have been changed because their marriages are recognized as equal to our own. I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us through their actions and through their generosity of our obligations to care for refugees, or work for peace, and, above all, to look out for each other.
I’ve seen you, the American people, in all your decency, determination, good humor, and kindness. And in your daily acts of citizenship, I’ve seen our future unfolding.
All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into that work – the joyous work of citizenship. Not just when there’s an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.
I’ll be right there with you every step of the way.
And when the arc of progress seems slow, remember: America is not the project of any one person. The single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ 'We the People.’ 'We shall overcome.’
Yes, we can.
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The first Chinese-American mayor in the history of San Francisco, Edwin M. Lee is one of the founding members of Mayors Against Discrimination (MAD). In 2016, Mayor Lee appointed Theresa Sparks as the Mayor’s Senior Advisor on Transgender Initiatives, becoming the first city in the nation to have a position dedicated to advancing the rights of and creating policies for the transgender community.
Mayor Jess Herbst • New Hope, TX
Jess Herbst is the mayor of New Hope, Texas and the first openly transgender mayor in Texas history. A lifelong Texan, Herbst has called New Hope her home for nearly 20 years and served on town council for several years, beginning in 2003. She publicly announced that she is transgender in January 2017 following a long journey of self-realization and is a proud member of Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination.
Mayor Jorge Elorza • Providence, RI
Mayor Jorge O. Elorza was born in Providence and grew up in the city’s West End. In 2010, he was appointed to the Providence Housing Court, where he served until 2013. Mayor Elorza was elected as Providence’s 38th Mayor and took office in 2015 and is focused on turning Providence around by creating economic opportunity for all, public services that work for everyone and innovative, ethical City government.
Mayor John Dennis • West Lafayette, IN
Mayor Dennis was born in Japan and moved to West Lafayette with his family as a young child, where he was raised and educated. Upon graduation from Indiana State University, where he received his bachelor and master degrees, Mayor Dennis worked for a period of time in California, where he met his wife Mary. Mayor Dennis, upon his return to West Lafayette, joined the Lafayette Police Department, staying with LPD for 23 years, retiring as Deputy Chief of Police.
Mayor William Peduto • Pittsburgh, PA
Mayor Peduto took office as Pittsburgh’s 60th Mayor in January of 2014. One of his first orders of business as Mayor was to sign on to the Mayors for Freedom to Marry campaign and Why Marriage Matters Pennsylvania. Mayor Peduto has formed an LGBTQIA+ Task Force, created the position of LGBTQIA+ Liaison within the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, been an active member of Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination, and celebrated marriage equality following the SCOTUS decision on same sex marriage by uniting 19 same sex couples during a group wedding ceremony during Pittsburgh PRIDE.
Our panel of Mayors will begin answering your questions on Tuesday April 11.