For the last four years, I’ve lived with my daughter, my son-in-law, and my two granddaughters in the White House. For the most part, most of what we do is pretty normal. There are the family dinners, the homework sessions with the girls, the school plays and sports games, and best of all – those times when we’re just sitting around, laughing and just being ourselves.
It’s like most families – that give and take, the lessons we learn, the bonds that form as we learn and grow just by being around one another. Of course, there’s something special about being here in the White House, and it has been an extraordinary privilege to live in this historic home. But even more than the history, I’ve been thrilled to see firsthand how Barack and Michelle operate not only as parents, but as president and first lady.
Every day, I’m amazed by how hard they work. Michelle gets up early – most days, even a little earlier than Barack – to get her exercise in. Then she sees the girls off to school, and dedicates her days to the causes that resonate with her, like helping kids grow up healthy and honoring our military families. Some days, she’ll fly halfway across the country and still be back in time to see the girls when they come home from school. But she does it because it’s what she loves – and she just wants to make a difference for other people.
Barack’s the same way. His schedule is even more demanding. He’s meeting with Senators and cabinet secretaries and generals and everyday heroes every single day. And that’s why I’m so impressed how, almost every evening, he still manages to come home and just be Dad for a while at the dinner table. He’ll talk to the girls about their days, strategize about those schoolhouse friendships, and answer all their questions.
Then, after they’ve gone to sleep, he goes back to work, always making time to read a few letters from folks all across the country – the moms and dads who will do anything to give their kids a better life; the families fighting to get the health care coverage they need from their insurance companies; the factory workers going back to school for new career training; the veterans who served our country so bravely, and now just want a fair shot at a good job.
These are the folks who keep him going. He cares so deeply about doing whatever he can to make life better for other people. He’s always been that way – and that’s a big part of the reason he won over Michelle in the first place. She saw the strength of his character and his determination not just to accept the world as it is, but to envision the world as it could be – and do his part to make it better. That’s been the driving force of his life as I’ve seen him grow from a young man to a State Senator, even to the president of the United States. And I know that right now, as we get closer to Election Day, he’s thinking about all the folks he’s met along the way.
He’s working for an economy that works for everybody, not just the folks at the top. He wants every kid in this country to go to good schools and be able to afford college. When they graduate, he wants them to be able to get a good job that they can raise a family on, and someday, retire with the dignity and security they’ve earned.
That’s why he’s staying up late going through those briefings and reading those letters. That’s why he’s waking up early for every single morning and staying up late every night. And that’s why, as long he has the privilege of serving as our president, he’s going to keep working his heart out to move this country forward.
And because he’s working so hard, I know that those of us who believe what he believes have got to do our part as well.
That starts with voting. It’s our most important duty as citizens. Voting is easy and convenient, so take a quick second to think through your plan for voting this year. Are you going to go before work or on your lunch hour? If early voting is available in your state, will you stop by an early voting location tomorrow after work? Where’s your polling place?
I’ve always been inspired that his campaigns have been about ordinary folks talking to their friends and neighbors about the issues. It’s about all of us doing our part. This election is too important for any of us to sit on the sidelines.
So right up until November 6th, we’ve got to work our hearts out to help make this country better for our kids and grandkids. That’s what I’ve seen Barack and Michelle do every day as president and first lady. And that’s what folks like us have always done to move our country forward.