Tavis Smiley’s letter to President Obama: ‘You’ve always had my respect’
With only days left in the Obama residency, Tavis Smiley and others are already looking back on the legacy that President Barack Obama is leaving behind. In a letter published by Time magazine, then, Smiley offered both his thanks and critique to the outgoing president.
“Let me first say, thank you,” Smiley said, listing off the president’s accomplishments and calling him the “best choice for America” before he moved on to his criticism.
“I have tried to frame my progressive critique of your administration in this way: Respect, Protect, Correct,” he wrote.
“Respect. You didn’t get as much as you deserved or earned,” Smiley wrote, speaking specifically about the racism that had surfaced during Obama’a presidency. He later added, “Still others would not accept a black man serving in the White House, unless he was serving in the White House. You’ve always had my respect, and even for the guy coming behind you, my high regard for the office of the presidency remains.”
“Protect. For those of us who do respect you, we’ve had to work overtime defending you against an onslaught of white supremacy and racial attacks,” he added before criticizing the president for being “unable to distinguish a loving and principled progressive critique from a right-wing racist rant.”
He then finished out his three-point critique:
“Correct. Great presidents aren’t born, great presidents are made. They have to be pushed into their greatness. There is no Abraham Lincoln without Frederick Douglass. There is no Franklin Roosevelt without A. Phillip Randolph. There is no Lyndon Johnson without Martin Luther King, Jr. A president who wants to be remembered as a great statesmen, and not just another garden variety politician, must be willing to course correct. In short, progressives have been disappointed because there were too many fights you wouldn’t take on, win or lose.”
Smiley finished out his letter looking ahead to the future and hoping that the post-presidency legacy of Obama will continue to grown and shine, with issues he was unable to address during his presidency possibly able to find more ground outside the Oval Office.
Check out the full letter here.