Thank you, Helen

I have to share this new comment from I’m Grateful. I’m just a little bit teary now.

Dear Mr. President:

I think I have read through all the “letters” up to this point, and if I am not mistaken, no one has mentioned, Mr. President, that you are neither Black nor White – you are both Black and White!

I believe with all my heart, that THIS is what has made you the perfect president for this country! Not only were you born of White and Black parents, but of parents from different countries. Then, you were raised by the White mother and grandparents, in a part of this world (Hawaii) sprinkled with many different races. What a wonderful childhood to prepare you to lead this country of every known race!

I read your book, “The Audacity of Hope” before you had even run for president, but I knew immediately that you MUST be the next president of these United States! So, for every person of the Black race who brags about you, Mr. President, I (very White) must also brag about you for our race. I am not only proud of you, Mr. President, but also of our First Lady and your lovely daughters.

Unfortunately, now approaching my 77th year, I can not do the amount of work I would like to help you to get elected to a second term. All I can offer is my mouth and my written words.

Respectfully, Helen Misener

56 thoughts on “Thank you, Helen

  1. Both this blog and the discussion around “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has taught me a *lot* about minorities that I, a white (non-Anglo-Saxon) protestant and heterosexual, didn’t know.

    I now know I miss at least 90 % of the dog whistles ….

    Please bear with my biases (and *report* them).

  2. Couldn’t agree more! As someone who just discovered my African ancestry, deeply hidden in my paternal history…and someone who lived most of my younger years as an American in a foreign country under a dictatorship style regime…I relate to our President’s fierce defense of the miracles of this nation, as well as his abiding respect for people in other parts of the world who struggle for freedom and understanding. We have had great and good men and women to nurture and lead our country. But I truly believe that we have not had a leader like this since the founding days of our Republic. God bless you, President Obama!

  3. It’s wonderful that you can acknowledge your lack of awareness (of the dog whistles) without succumbing to the temptation so many of us white folks fall prey to: getting defensive and deflecting. We learn so much when we humble ourselves and try to use some empathy, don’t we?

    You remind me of another thing we can be grateful for — the power of empathy, to redeem us and to reconcile us.

  4. To all the Helens:

    I know — and I’m sure I’m not the only black or other color person who knows.

    It’s just that we’re not really able to speak of “la raza” — blended people and the greater knowledge we get from that blend because there’s still too much bigotry out there that believes that it’s the addition of the white that adds the intelligence to that point of view.

    I don’t mean to put white down when I neglect it — and I don’t mean to insult you — Helen. I am of mixed heritage but I can’t speak of it without people thinking that the best of me is probably because of the white in me. We see it when people try to attribute everything that’s good in Obama to his white mother and his white grandparents. The title of his book “Dreams FROM My Father” is overlooked — the inheritance of the ambitious hope and desire to try to help “his people” put aside for the assumption that all that he is he owes to his white mother and white grandparents.

    I think you’re absolutely right — Helen. The mixture that is his inheritance and his upbringing influenced the intelligence of that man and no part of it was most or least important. All of it is critical to who he is.

    It breaks my heart when I think of wonderful people like you who may feel slighted — but — I don’t know how to lift you up in this story without the unintended consequence of putting myself down in it.

    Until the world recognizes that there is no superior or inferior part of me — that I get strength from every part of me — I’ll probably keep on trying to lift up that part of me that the world would put down.

    I’m sorry that you get hurt in the process. I just don’t know any other way to go — I hope you understand.



  5. What a wonderful insightful comment readerwriter.

    I think its beneficial to us all- as a society and as individuals to embrace one another as we are.. for our culture, our language.. whatever we bring to the table. I too believe that President Obama’s enlightened upbringing has to have helped in leading a nation so diverse of people, ideals, beliefs, etc. Even the fact that his mom was an athiest – who had an open mind enabled his own openess.

    Maybe loving his caucasian mother & grandparents, his AA wife and extended family allows for him to see us all for the human beings we are too.. none of us is “foreign” to him.. and that makes him, imo a President for us all- something America has certainly not always – if ever- had.

  6. Helen dear, I am approaching my 80th birthday and it takes my breath away to “hear” you so eloquently speak the very words that are in my heart. I too, on reading “The Audacity of Hope” knew that its author with his particular background and philosophy must become President of our country.

    Unlike you I (very Black)felt that given the political climate in our country, it could not come about during my lifetime.

    How delighted I am to have been part of the grassroots effort that worked hard in support of his campaign for the Presidency. How grateful I am to be here looking forward to actively continue support of his efforts to move America toward a more perfect union.

    Your comment is so welcomed by those of us who often wearied by the strident ignorance we encounter.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful tribute, from Helen, to our President Obama — and a big thanks to Helen as well. I appreciate her putting into words with her wonderful writing, my feelings also and exactly the way I feel.

    President Obama is ‘perfect’ as our President, and with his beautiful family, they certainly are ‘perfect’ as our First Family. They are so loved and appreciated.

    Thanks again to both of you. This also brought a tear to my eye.

    (((HUGS))) and wishes for a Very Happy New Year, to both of you.


  8. Dearest Helen,
    You have already done more than you will ever know.Hugs and best wishes to this dear, precious woman that has dared to speak the words out loud that so many of us already knew in our hearts, but never said out loud.Our diversity is why we are who we are.And that’s a good thing. Bless you for your eloquent words, and the goodness and powerful truth of your words.

  9. I thought that one of the most powerful moments in “Dreams from My Father” was when Obama, as a teenager, explored aligning himself with the Malcolm X (prior to his trip to Mecca) and the Nation of Islam.

    Obama explains how doing so would have meant a rejection of his mother and grandparents – as well as the part of him that is White.

    He was searching for an identity at the time – but knew it had to be one that encompassed ALL of who he was.

  10. I know that within my own family, which is blended resulting in many shades throughout, that this President becomes that role model for my nieces and nephews – who have been not always confused, but definitely wondered where they stand in this world. With President Obama, they see they, too, can be seen past their skin colour – and hopefully the focus is on their accomplishments and not the shape of their eyes, their nose, the colour of their hair, the colour of their skin.

  11. Thank you, Helen, for the beautiful tribute to our President & for saying so well what I feel.

    A family story: After loosing our 4-yr. old grandson to cancer (in 2008), our daughter and son-in-law adopted a baby girl in Oct. of 2010. She is bi-racial…BEAUTIFUL, of course! 🙂 My husband does NOT support Pres. Obama….insists it has NOTHING to do w/his “race”….that it’s because he’s a Democrat & he doesn’t agree w/his policies…..believes he “will destroy the country”….believes the HCR is unconstitutional…is expressing every day about gas going to be $4 by summer & the message is: It’s Pres. Obama’s policies/Fed. printing money, etc. I can’t get inside his mind/heart, but I believe part of his problem IS that he is ‘black’…..Has it dawned on him that Pres. Obama is NO different that our granddaughter? I don’t know??????

  12. To me, almost all African Americans are mixed race, just depends on how far back in the family tree folks want to go; President Obama’s black, and he tried to explain this with his “mongrel” comments on the view in which he attempted to educate people about just how mixed most African Americans really are. But I delight in the manner in which soooo many people are so proud of him and for so many reasons, feel a connection. Just beautiful to witness.

  13. lala…wow. just wow. you must be a wonderfully strong woman to hear that from someone that you love. I guess all you can do is show the good things that our President has done for this country, and show your husband how those good things directly impact you and your family. Seems like you may have found out a little something about your husband that you didn’t know before…and you’re not liking it too much. Can’t say I blame you there.I’m no psychologist, but this is a tough one.Maybe your granddaughter will “force” him to become more tolerant of others…he will see that loving her is natural and brings him joy..Thinking of you and wishing all good things…we’re all here for you if you need to talk…I’m sure there must be some professional advice in here somewhere.Keep us posted.So sorry to hear about your grandson.Maybe he’s angry more about that than anything the President has done…projecting and all.

  14. It is hard to understand how some are wired differently and can see the same images and come to an entirely different conclusion. One can only hope that they see the light, eventually.

  15. Excellenc statment! that reminds we of his speech on race. he acknowledge his diagreement with his grandmother reaction towards blacks when passing. We must remember she raised him, but his own ideas of life and other cultures is his own.

  16. On a lighter note, all of this reminds me of a wonderful story I read after the election (I’ll have to see if I can go back and find it now).

    But the just of it was a celebration of the bi-raical. This young person talked about ordering a coffee and asking for cream. When they were asked “how much,” their response was…”make it Obama.”

  17. Now that gave me a chuckle.. very cute NL.

    My middle son loves the president.. not just for policies and politics but because of what he’s done for my son’s dating life- as he too is a tall, lanky, left-handed, somewhat ‘ear enhanced, bi-racial man.. he is personally benefiting from this presidency 😉

  18. I respectfully disagree. Mostly all African American were forced to be mixed. I understand what you are saying, but it should be acknowledge as such unless it was a willing decision by both party. . Whites and Blacks must face that reality. When President Obama refers to himself as AA, some choose to point out he is also white as if this is reason for his success. I know Gn that not what you are saying. Acknowledging his white grand parents should not only be pointed out so should his indonesian father and his kenyan grand mother . It takes a village to raise a child, your village can come in many colors.

  19. Loved Helen Misener’s comment. World needs more people who see our connectedness, versus color. I didn’t read Audacity of Hope until a year ago – and it just confirmed everything I already felt about this great man. I’m amazed at his willingness and ability to look at all angles of our challenges, and to perceive how inter-connected they are and we are, and wise enough to know he doesn’t have all the answers, so he listens as a master/leader does. I believe his wisdom and just being such a good person are, sadly, perceived as threats to those less conscious, stuck in ego and job security mentality.

    Again, I’m grateful for having found this web site and to be connected to those who when counting their blessings, count our President twice. History will likely document how blind so many were to not appreciate him every day. He may not walk on water, but if he builds an ark, I’m in.

  20. You speak *nothing* but the truth, tulips! Co-signing your comment in its entirety. Like with Halle Berry, seems like there is a rush to “claim” a mixed African American when they have become accomplished. But at the end of the day, President Obama and Berry are black. Mixed race blacks.

    That said, I do very much so enjoy that so many diverse people seek to connect, and do connect. That is beautiful, and I’m not going to take away from that at all.

  21. Exactly whenever i here that African proverb. It is so true. As a Dark skinned woman, I have A diverse group of people that plays a major part of my life. God has put some wonder people in my path to learn from Jewish women seems to come in my life a lot Irish, Polish, Italians. I seem to be in the path with trouble Black and Latino teens. If we acknowledged and look around there is different culture influences in all our lives. Which is a wonderful thing and why i find it hard to hate.

  22. You definitely said it.

    That indonesian stepfather is routinely neglected and chances are he probably had a strong influence since he did essentially become Obama’s father.

    If we were really to try to label him — there’s no label that tells his story — no label that make a strong statement about who he is.

    As it is — though — black is the easiest label to wear since — with the exception of a few — black folks don’t try to exclude anybody. Hey — you can not have any “black” at all and be welcomed and treated as though you really belong.

    Sometimes — when racial issues come up and the discussion becomes uncomfortable — I almost want to say to some of my white friends come on over here and be black with me — you’re black — too. Black absorbs all colors and maybe it’s the only label that all of us can take on and remain who we are and still belong. Black is the only label people can wear no matter what they look like and there are some very white looking black people to prove it.

  23. I have that same experience. From the time that I was a child, I have been blessed with having access to many different people saying and doing many different things. Brooklyn would be nothing without the diversity. I have been to Catholic mass, know dominican words and I know some yiddish words and some muslim words but can’t pretend to speak a spec of chinese although some of the people most kind to me growing up were chinese (and some Koreans as well).

    We truly are one. This WH does not in any shape or form represent a “post-racial” country. That’s a dream not even close to realized. But in its appeal that we put aside our differences for a minute, or even pretend to envision a you to Helen. And thank you to the tapestry of people who form this beautiful space, shocking in its popularity being so utterly new.

  24. I’ll never forget overhearing managers talk about someone I knew. He is bi-racial. Mother is caucasian British, father American black. He grew up in the US. He’s a bit of a rebel, and always pushing back – no matter the discussion.

    So what I overheard was his telling some supervisor that he was white, and to stop referring to him as black. The supervisor apparently said nothing, but decided to tell the tale to the rest of his peers and his managers. Needless to say, the majority of these supervisors and managers were caucasian.

    But the point being was – the managers I overheard were saying. How can he say he is white? What, maybe he needs to look in the mirror!!!

    But this guy basically was trying to push the point that he, too, should be able to declare his “white-ness” – as much as his blackness was obvious.

    Needless to say, those managers just didn’t get it.

  25. Dear Helen,

    Spreading the word about how you feel about President Obama is ALOT! You would be surprised how much that helps those that walk when others can’t, make phone calls and donate when those wish they could but can’t. Keep up the kind words because it encourages us all. Thanks.

  26. Helen, What an amazing letter. It is very moving and helps to shore up the feelings I have for our President. He is definitely a keeper.

  27. I’ve read all the comments above and found the ‘race’ discussion quite interesting. {An observation, as opposed to a criticism – At this point in his presidency I can’t see Prez O involving himself in a similar debate.} The President’s greatest impact for me is that he is human and humane – very much so! He interacts WITH people. IMHO, he doesn’t just talk about caring. He looks at me, you, whomever, and you can tell he is looking at you. You can tell he IS listening, and that he does care. Somebody else commented on a post that she had never seen a picture of the President when his humanity was not on display. She didn’t use that particular word, but that is how I perceived her meaning. The man is doing the job he is obviously ‘called’ to do, and doing it really, really well!! As he says repeatedly, ‘out of many, we are one’. And gradually, I believe he is drawing people out of our racial shells to the higher calling of working together as a country.

    President Obama is the very first politician to make me consciously accept that once the elections are over, the elected leader should be governing for the best interests of the ENTIRE country, AND, sometimes, not all bright ideas originate on one side of the fence. [Yeah, yeah, I know that the GOPers haven’t shown too many ideas, but try to see my underlying point.] It’s from the President’s positions that I had an early insight – that the people who voted opposing politicians into office IN GOOD FAITH, should have their votes validated as much as those voters who voted for members of his side. (Sigh. If only the GOP politicians were grown-up enough to get this.}

    Reading entries and comments here over the last couple of days, has started the thought in my mind that BWD has been ‘called’ [I do like this word – :)] to change the tone of the media for the next 2 years. The posts (thanks BWD) and impetus at this site could very well be the catalysis that undergirds the awakening of quieter, yet ‘real’, Obama supporters. Look at how the ‘I’m Grateful’ post took off! I’m sure I’m not the only one to reread the ‘Thank you Mr. President’ post over and over. Lots of people with no access to mainstream media seemed to have been yearning for a medium in which to say thank you aloud to the President, and to remind him and the rest of the media(?) that mainstream doesn’t speak for us. [Or, maybe just to find our voice again and to strengthen each other?] The suggested Healthcare post sounds like another excellent idea. It would be wonderful if this site, and others like it (i.e. positives only, please -there are more than enough of the other types) just mushroomed all over the internet, pulling in ordinary, every day folks who want to start being counted AGAIN* as part of ‘the change that we can believe in’.

    Oops! I never meant to ramble on so! I’m just tickled to be around positive people ;)day after day (4 days now?), and don’t really know how to behave appropriately. I’ll just crawl back into my shell.

    * The news from media sources seem to indicate that they give little thought to Obama’s positive base when mentioning his base.

  28. Does your husband offer alternate policy solutions…..or is he parroting “Republican/conservative memes? If you leave President Obama out of the discussion are you actually able to discuss the issues, with deference to the complexities that are inherent to policies of national scope? What is your husbands response to the policies and their outcomes of the previous administrations?

    Your husband may be like many Americans, better at arguing politics than actually discussing potential solutions. Lots of Americans have bought into the notion that politics is a zero-sum game. A two party system and a cultural propensity towards competition only feeds the divisiveness infusing our politics.

    Beneath that, he may have an irrational fear of a brilliant, uncommonly good, highly evolved, man leading our nation, who because of his skin color, has upset the established precedent of who can be elected President. I believe those accustomed to wielding power in Washington are threatened by his abilities, his character, and the new standards he has brought to halls of government. Racism is a tool in their kit used to manipulate and divide the constituency.

    Hopefully, your husband’s eyes will be opened.
    I know I believe in the possibility, and the hope, that people can and do change.

    I think Barack Obama is a remarkable human being. I can honestly think of no one, I admire more, at this moment in time. I pray that for America’s benefit he has a successful and dynamic Presidency. But not lost on me is the import of his success to the African American community and the impact his successes will have on the moral conscience of America. And for that, and for all those that have suffered or suffer due to inequality, I say an extra prayer.

  29. Deidre, now I am crying, it’s from the love in your voice. I am a 69 year old white woman with a smart, handsome, dark African American man – and a 21 year stepson who is part and part, but speaks of himself as black. Thing is, his racist white grandparents have never even seen him, refuse to, and we all live in the same town. They don’t know what they are missing, he is the sweetest young man ever. But their rejection and his mother’s abandonment together mean he can’t really honor the half of him that is white. I don’t know how to help him.

    I so appreciate Helen, and her speaking in the way she did about being proud of our half-white President, white like her and white like me. We joke in our house, we have a cardboard full-sized cutout of Obama in our kitchen, and since we’re older, we sometimes imagine what if he were OUR kid?

    BWD, what a treasure this post is, thank you!!

  30. Hi Lala. So sorry for your loss and happy for your beautiful granddaughter. I feel your love for her.
    Please tell me how you cope with the negativity about our President. For me, it is so painful to hear the ugliness from my own family. I love and respect President Obama so very much and am passionate about wanting him to succeed. Perhaps you would share your thoughts. Thanks, Lala

  31. hi like minded friends well said V.C you couldn’t be more right and you are welcome as i bet you will enjoy your stay just as i have what more can i say “we are the change we have been waiting for, we are the change that we seek” wise words how so true

  32. I wish I knew something to tell you. Just in case — I would like to clarify that my parents are both “black.” It’s that both of them are of mixed heritage. I am a creole from Louisiana.

    We have what you speak of on going on in my father’s side of the family. My great-grandfather was disowned for marrying a woman who was 1/16 black. They had 5 children. Two of them lived as black people — the other three moved away and lived as white people. These descendants do not recognize and keep in touch with each other. My grandfather married a “pure” African woman — so — even his brothers that married light-skinned “black” women didn’t associate with him.

    The result is that my father had a 1st cousin who lived two blocks away from us — but they didn’t associate or acknowledge each other. When I was a teenager those cousins (his cousin had children my age) and I — because of friends we had in common — eventually acknowledged that we knew we were cousins — but we never became family.

    In my mother’s family — they’re mostly Native American with a little white and black thrown in — but in that part of Louisiana — many Native Americans were denied their heritage (even by other Native Americans) because they lived among Africans. So — in Lousiana — there are people who have no African ancestry who the government called “black” just because they lived among Africans.

    I struggle with it because all of it is me — but at the same time — I refuse to beg to be accepted by anybody — so — to be honest with you — in secret I read about the other aspects of my heritage — but otherwise — I “say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud.”

    I’m 49 — 50 in 2 months — and I haven’t figured out how to claim and embrace all that is me. Chances are your stepson has a better chance of working it out and maybe one day he’ll be able to tell older people how to do it.

    I don’t speak of this — often. It’s just that as I said in the other post — I know that there are wonderful white people who feel slighted when we seemingly deny or exclude white heritage. I don’t trivialize anybody’s feelings — so — I feel badly for the pain this causes white people — too. I just wanted to maybe help white people understand better why some of us do what we do — wanted to help them understand that it isn’t because we disregard them. All of this is just consequences of things that aren’t any of our faults.

  33. Helen, thank you so much for your letter to the President.

    BWD I thank you once again for this space.

    Reading the comments for this post has been a wonderful experience. Every comment is valid and valuable it shows the diversity in this country.

    Racial issue although not unique to this country; our unique USA perspective, must be acknowledge created a monster thinking mentality (one set of people being superior and others less than) and as a result we have all suffered and also benefited from it; some more so than others. I think the president is helping to reset the debate and we can all take part in the debate. I think it is extremely healthy for our country to discuss this monster and hopefully overtime we learn to accept all of ourselves as one people; even the ones who don’t accept our reality. Peace

  34. Empathy and willingness to listen is very common with liberals at least in my personal experience. A travesty of the disconnect between the media spokespeople for “the base” and the actual base is that people like Helen got a bad rap. Liberal Democrats keep POTUS’ approval ratings afloat right alongside black people (both African Americans and liberal Dems have consistently expressed approval of POTUS in the 80s/90s {currently 91%}). Easy to forget when the media insists that the base has such problems with POTUS. I did nitpick in a note about POTUS being considered black although he is of mixed race (almost all descendants of US slavery have some ancestors of other races), but I am very glad to read people like Helen express their pride and connection as well.

  35. You write so beautifully about your experience, I feel like we are sitting across the table from each other. Bless BWD for providing the space for people to talk about race and the effects bigotry and cultural difference have had on all of us. And I wish you will find a place to put up a full diary of your experience of race. Your experiences with life I should say. Maybe even form a “group” on the new Daily Kos to discuss race and culture at a personal level. It would be a real service. Let us know.

    It may be the circles I hang out in, but white people I know who discover they have Native or African blood somewhere in their lineage, celebrate and tell everyone they know. You see, “White” isn’t a culture, it’s a boring skin color, and quite honestly I feel robbed sometimes of a culture to celebrate – dances and songs and foods and traditions. “Creole” sounds so much more interesting. “Black.” “Navajo.” “Jewish.” “Mexican.” “Scottish.” all bring images to mind, and it isn’t about having a skin color (we all do I guess). I am loving that people are understanding we should not try to be a melting pot in America, but rather be a banquet table.

    Thanks for engaging with with such an open heart. I really do hope you blog somewhere. You are such a fine writer. I would gladly invite you to guest blog at my new blog, but know that I don’t have very many readers yet.

    I hope you will accept a hug after such a personal conversation.

  36. Thank you for the compliment — but I get “stage fright” at the thought of being on the front page. And well — I’m very open in the comfort of comments among nice people — love sharing and discussing all kinds of things with people — but I don’t have the strength to put things like this in the spotlight.

    That’s one of the things I admire so much about Blackwaterdog — that she was able to take all that garbage and keep on going.

    Your hug warms my heart and I sincerely hug you right back.

  37. Thanks to all of you for your comments, sympathies for the loss of our grandson & congrats on our new granddaughter. Re my husband: It is VERY difficult for us to have a discussion about Pres. Obama, his policies, politics in general. He tends to become VERY defensive & he uses the typical “talking points.” I believe one reason for his reaction is that he knows I have FACTS on my side. When I offer FACTS to him, he gives me “talking points” or tries to change the subject. There’s a couple here–some of our best friends–who is AA. The husband hikes w/my husband frequently & the wife & I are quite close. She has a very good friend who is active in the Dem Party (TN.) Later this month, I will be meeting her & plan on getting much more involved. I believe he will respect me for doing it…..we’ll see.

  38. Yes, I think you are correct on your points. Yes, he tends to spout talking points and when I give him FACTS, he tries very hard to change the subject. Also agree that the “apple cart got upset” w/the election of someone “different” — not older, white, etc.

  39. Yes, it is very difficult!! Hard for us to have much of a discussion…..he gets defensive, uses “talking points” and when I offer hard FACTS, he tries to change the subject. I’ll keep trying though. 🙂 I plan on getting more involved in politics/support for Pres. Obama, beginning later this month. I do believe he will respect me for my beliefs.

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