One Last Time: Obama and America

It’s time for one big, last thanks, Obama.

Thanks, Obama, for:

  • passing health care reform that has helped 20 million Americans gain health care coverage.
  • rebounding the economy from its recession low, adding 15.5 million jobs and presiding over record-setting continuous job growth.
  • serving as Commander in Chief during the overthrow of Osama bin Laden.
  • providing American leadership in the 2015 Paris Agreement, securing our commitment and that of numerous other countries to stalling and reversing global climate change.
  • saving the U.S. auto industry, with our $62 billion investment already repaid at over $70 billion.
  • leading the push to secure LGBT rights, resulting in the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, with same-sex marriage recognized as the law of the land.
  • passing the Fair Sentencing Act to ameliorate the disproportionate drug imprisonments for the poor and people of color.
  • cutting the federal deficit from 9.8% to 3.2%
  • signing the Lily Ledbetter fair pay act.
  • de-escalating Iran’s nuclear program.

We could continue.

Today, President Obama becomes Citizen Obama. Still, we know that he’ll always be our president, the same way my grandparents proudly claimed JFK as their own decades after he was gone.

Here’s the thing about all of us who benefitted from President Obama’s policies and considered him the finest president of our lifetimes: we’re all still here. We’re all still America. We still have the progress from the past eight years, even if we have to grasp harder than we imagined to hold on to all of it. We still have that message of hope and change. We still have the rapid transition in Americans’ social mindsets that occurred over the past eight years, and we still have a generation of children who grew up only knowing a Black president. And someday, those children will be our leaders. We’re all still here, with the benefit of eight years of solid leadership, positivity, progress, idealism, empathy and resilience.

President Obama will soon be president no longer, but he’s still here too. This one goes out to Obama and America, a relationship we’ve loved for the past eight years – and that doesn’t sunset on January 20, 2017.

Thanks, Obama.

President Obama fist-bumps custodian Lawrence Lipscomb in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. December, 2009.

President Obama fist-bumps custodian Lawrence Lipscomb in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. December, 2009. (All photos by White House photographers Pete Souza and Lawrence Jackson)

“A few days after the mission against bin Laden, the President traveled to New York City to meet with families of the 9/11 victims. He also visited at Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9 Firehouse. The firehouse, known as the “Pride of Midtown,” lost 15 firefighters on 9/11 — an entire shift and more than any other New York firehouse. Here, the firefighters offer an impromptu toast to the President in honor of their fallen comrades during a lunch at the station house.” May, 2011.

“The President visited Joplin, Mo., following a devastating tornado. Here he greets Hugh Hills, 85, in front of his home. Hills told the President he hid in a closet during the tornado, which destroyed the second floor and half the first floor of his house.” May, 2011.

“One of the most poignant days of the year was when Ruby Bridges visited the White House. Ruby is the girl portrayed in Norman Rockwell’s famous painting, “The Problem We All Live With,” which depicts Ruby as she is escorted to school on the court-ordered first day of integrated schools in New Orleans in 1960. When the Norman Rockwell Museum loaned the painting to the White House for a short period of time, the President invited Ruby to view the painting while it was on display outside the Oval Office

“A soldier hugs the President as he greeted U.S. troops at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan.” May, 2012.

“The President hugs Stephanie Davies, who helped her friend, Allie Young, left, stay alive after she was shot during the movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colo. The President visited patients and family members affected by the shootings at the University of Colorado Hospital. The President later told their story in a news conference.” July, 2012.

“Overcome with emotion, eight-year old Make-A-Wish child Janiya Penny reacts just after meeting the President as he welcomes her family to the Oval Office.” April, 2012.

“The overview of a campaign rally in Urbandale, Iowa. This view was from a scissors lift just above the press stand.” September, 2012.

“I had noticed the possibility of a potential good photograph if the President were to pass by this flag as he departed an evening campaign rally in Dubuque, Iowa. So I planted myself backstage as he finished working a ropeline and managed to get one usable frame as he walked by.”November, 2012.

“Four Presidents. One funny story. Presidents Carter, Clinton, Obama and Bush wait backstage to be introduced during the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.”April, 2013.

Alternate title: four private citizens who have the same president as us.

“Thelma Maxine Pippen McNair, mother of Denise McNair, whispers to the President after he signed H.R. 360, which provided for the presentation of a congressional gold medal to commemorate the lives of the four young African American victims of the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in September 1963. McNair’s daughter was one of the victims.” May, 2013.

“You can’t always predict what will happen even when the President has a pre-arranged lunch during a stop on his college affordability college tour. Here, during a lunch with college students, recent graduates and educators, a young child plays on the floor nearby at Magnolia’s Deli & Cafe in Rochester, N.Y.” August, 2013.

Shout out to our hometown!

“Call it the Shake Shack slide. As he is wont to do, the President normally does a group photo with restaurant staff when he stops for lunch or dinner somewhere. After having lunch with Vice President Biden at a Shake Shack in Washington, D.C., the President asked me where he should stand for the photo. Before I could even reply, the President jumped on the counter and slid onto the other side. The Vice President soon followed.” May, 2014.

A surprise walk around the White House. May, 2014.

“Chief of Staff Denis McDonough came to the Oval Office one afternoon and said to the President, ‘let’s take a walk.’ So they proceeded outside the White House gates to a Starbucks on Pennsylvania Avenue. On the way back, the President stopped to greet street vendor Saied Abedy, who was born in Afghanistan. I later selected this photograph to hang as a ‘jumbo’ print on the walls of the West Wing. Several months later, after the jumbo print had been replaced with a newer photograph, we were tipped off that a White House staff member was giving Mr. Abedy and his family a tour of the West Wing one night. So we retrieved the jumbo print of him and hung it back on the walls of the West Wing. I later heard how emotional his family became when they saw the photograph on their tour.”June, 2014.

“During remarks on the economy in Austin, Texas, the President was heckled about immigration by two young men in the audience. After being interrupted again, the President told the men that he wanted to finish his speech but would be happy to have a conversation with them later. As soon as he left the stage, the President told his staff to bring the two men backstage so he could indeed talk to them about immigration.” June, 2014.

“The President was meeting with a group of mentees in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. As the meeting was coming to a close one of the participants challenged the President to a game of HORSE. ‘Let’s go,’ the President responded, and the entire group walked down to the basketball court on the South Lawn. In addition to the shooting competition, the President also used the opportunity to further talk to the young men about life lessons, not basketball.” October, 2014.

“It was supposed to be just a simple early voting by the President at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Chicago, Illinois. When Aia Cooper, left, and her fiancé Mike Jones, far right, walked by to also cast their ballot, Jones quipped, ‘Mr. President, don’t touch my girlfriend.’ The President replied, ‘I really wasn’t planning on it,’ joking that Jones was ‘an example of a brother just embarrassing you for no reason.’ When the President finished voting, he reached over and gave Cooper a kiss on the cheek.” October, 2014.

Watch the video. It’s real good.

March 7, 2015 “For Presidential trips, I usually have another White House photographer accompany me so he or she can preset with the press and obtain angles that I can’t, as I usually stay close to the President. Lawrence Jackson made this iconic image from the camera truck as the First Family joined others in beginning the walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.” (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

“For Presidential trips, I usually have another White House photographer accompany me so he or she can preset with the press and obtain angles that I can’t, as I usually stay close to the President. Lawrence Jackson made this iconic image from the camera truck as the First Family joined others in beginning the walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.” March, 2015.

President Obama unexpectedly breaks out into Amazing Grace while giving the eulogy for or South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney, who was one of nine victims in the Charleston church shooting. June, 2015.

Oct. 11, 2015 “The President was playing golf at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, Calif. As he was finishing his round, he began to shake hands with guests waiting for a wedding ceremony about to begin. The bride and groom were waiting inside but when they looked out the window and saw the President, they decided to make their way outside. I made a grab shot as the bride, Stephanie Tobe, and her soon-to-be husband, Brian Tobe, came running to greet the President. I made sure to send a copy to the happy couple and both wrote back to me that they were extremely grateful to have the President ‘crash’ their wedding.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

“The President was playing golf at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, Calif. As he was finishing his round, he began to shake hands with guests waiting for a wedding ceremony about to begin. The bride and groom were waiting inside but when they looked out the window and saw the President, they decided to make their way outside. I made a grab shot as the bride, Stephanie Tobe, and her soon-to-be husband, Brian Tobe, came running to greet the President. I made sure to send a copy to the happy couple and both wrote back to me that they were extremely grateful to have the President ‘crash’ their wedding.” October, 2015.

Feb. 18, 2016 “President Obama watches the First Lady dance with 106-year-old Virginia McLaurin in the Blue Room of the White House prior to a reception celebrating African American History Month.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

“President Obama watches the First Lady dance with 106-year-old Virginia McLaurin in the Blue Room of the White House prior to a reception celebrating African American History Month.” February, 2016.

Also an accompanying video that will make your heart explode.

Nov. 11, 2016 “The excitement in his face says it all. Bill Mohr, 108 years old (not a typo), was the oldest living World War II veteran when he met President Obama after a Veterans Day breakfast at the White House. Bill passed away a couple of weeks ago and his family released a statement including this sentence: ‘Meeting a sitting President was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for our father, who was a true patriot.’” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

“The excitement in his face says it all. Bill Mohr, 108 years old (not a typo), was the oldest living World War II veteran when he met President Obama after a Veterans Day breakfast at the White House. Bill passed away a couple of weeks ago and his family released a statement including this sentence: ‘Meeting a sitting President was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for our father, who was a true patriot.’” November, 2016.

Farewell speech. One last time. January, 2017.

One Last Time: Obama and Kids

Think about this: for a whole generation of children, President Barack Obama is the only president they can remember. They’ve only known a president grounded in goodwill, diplomacy and belief in the possibility of change and progress. As long as these children have been aware of it, their president has been black. Eight years isn’t much to us as adults, but for a child it’s a lifetime. These children have spent a lifetime knowing that it’s possible for a child of any race to grow up to be president – if you can see it, you can be it.

One of the best insights into President Obama’s character comes when he interacts with children. I’d say that’s one of the best ways to get a look at anybody’s character. Not everybody is a “kid person,” but it says a lot when an adult regards a child as a full person. This means listening, regarding their opinions as important and valid, and seeing the humanity in a person who has only been walking this earth for a handful of years. President Obama listens to kids and meets their gaze at their level: this is important. President Obama’s interactions with children also show his sense of fun and spontaneity – he is more interested in playing and having a good time than in appearing stoic or dignified. Most of the others-centered people I have known share this quality. They are fully present with whoever is in the room, child or adult, and are more tuned into that experience than how they are perceived.

All that to say: President Obama is a great guy. We are thrilled that today’s children have grown up with him as their president. Also, he’s adorable with kids. Here are some of our favorite Obama and kids moments:

 “A temporary White House staffer, Carlton Philadelphia, brought his family to the Oval Office for a farewell photo with President Obama. Carlton’s son softly told the President he had just gotten a haircut like President Obama, and asked if he could feel the President’s head to see if it felt the same as his.” May 8, 2009

“A temporary White House staffer, Carlton Philadelphia, brought his family to the Oval Office for a farewell photo with President Obama. Carlton’s son softly told the President he had just gotten a haircut like President Obama, and asked if he could feel the President’s head to see if it felt the same as his.” May 8, 2009

This little guy told Barry he had gotten a haircut just like the President, and asked if he could feel his head to see if it felt the same as his. This photo has become one of the most iconic snapshots of Barack’s administration, and is the perfect example of how much of a role model he’s been to kids around the country, and the world.

Students show their excitement at meeting President Barack Obama during his visit to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School in New Orleans, La., Oct. 15, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets students at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School in New Orleans. October, 2009.

Joy. Just pure joy.

President Barack Obama plays with his niece Savita during the family’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, Aug. 25 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama with his niece Savita in Martha’s Vineyard, August, 2009.

I always forget Barack has a half-sister that’s Indonesian, and she’s married to a full Chinese dude, which is why Barack’s niece is the most Asian. #America

Barack filling in as coach for Sasha’s basketball team, February, 2011.

When two of the coaches for your kid’s basketball team have to bail last minute, you ask the other kids’ parents if they can fill in. And one of the volunteers happens to be the President of the United States. Barack and his then personal aide, Reggie Love pull out their coach hats and playbooks and here they are cheering on the girls’ team from the sidelines. Super normal.

President Barack Obama holds up four-month-old Alia Jawando as her father, William Jawando, Deputy Associate Director of Public Engagement, and her mother Michele look on in the Oval Office, March 9, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama holds up four-month old Alia Jawando, whose father William was the Deputy Associate Director of Public Engagement. March, 2011.

*NANTS INGONYAMA BAGITHI BABA*

President Barack Obama greets children at a day care facility adjacent to daughter Sasha’s school in Bethesda, Md., following her 4th grade closing ceremony, June 9, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets kids at a day care in Bethseda, Maryland. June, 2011.

This was just a stop along Barack’s journey that day, as he had attended Sasha’s 4th grade closing ceremony just next door. But I love the faces of these kinder who have no idea that they’re face to face with the President. Years from now, they’ll look back in awe that they were that close to our of our country’s greatest leaders.

Feb. 1, 2012 “Lawrence Jackson captured this cute photograph of the President holding Arianna Holmes, 3, before taking a departure photo with members of her family in the Oval Office.” (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama holding three-year-old Arianna Holmes in the Oval Office. February, 2012

As Barack looks at Abraham Lincoln before him, I look at little Arianna thinking, “Same, girl. Same.”

President Barack Obama runs around his desk in the Oval Office with Sarah Froman, daughter of Nancy Goodman and Mike Froman, Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics, July 9, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama runs around the Oval with Sarah, daughter of Mike Froman, Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics. July, 2012.

One of the many things I appreciated about Barack and Michelle is that they brought youth both physically and in their spirits back into the White House. It’s been a hot second since we’ve seen a POTUS running around chasing a tot in the Oval Office.

President Barack Obama signs a photograph as he greets people on the tarmac upon arrival at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, La., July 25, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama signs a photograph for a young man at the New Orleans, airport. July, 2012.

What a wonderful thing to see yourself in your role model.

The President takes a hit from Spider-Man. October, 2012

Another iconic shot taken by official White House photographer Pete Souza (most of these photos are by him), in which Nicholas Tamarin, 3, slings his web after trick-or-treating in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with his father, WH aide Nate Tamarin. Yet again, it shows the playfulness and joy President Obama has around kids, which might be why he now has this photo hanging in the West Wing.

December 16, 2012

President Obama poses with the family of Emilie Parker, one of the 20 children killed in Newtown. December, 2012

President Obama has called the day the Newtown shooting occurred the worst day of his presidency, and two days after it happened, he visited the victims’ families and to give a speech at a prayer vigil. He spent hours speaking with them, and this photo was taken with the siblings and cousins of Emile, who died in the massacre. The President was able to find a moment to smile in the midst of a horrifying tragedy, and it’s all because he has hope for a bright future of these children.

The President with Robby Novak aka Kid President. April, 2013.

Remember when we all met Kid President for the first time and he shared his inspirational words with us?

June 14, 2013 “The President called me over to pose for a photo with a young boy who had fallen asleep during the Father’s Day ice cream social in the State Dining Room of the White House.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Father’s Day ice cream social. June, 2013

When you at the White House for a once-in-a-lifetime event but you mad tired because your mom made you get up at the buttcrack of dawn to get ready.

April 4, 2014 “Despite the haphazard framing, I love the expressions on the President and one-year-old Lincoln Rose Smith as she learns to walk in the Oval Office. This moment happened when former Deputy Press Secretary Jamie Smith and her family stopped by for a departure greet and photograph with the President.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Lincoln Rose, daughter of former Deputy Press Secretary Jamie Smith, learns how to walk with the help of President Obama. April, 2014

So much happiness from both of these adorable humans.

President Obama writes an excuse for five-year-old Alanah Poullard, who skipped school to visit the White House. September, 2013

President Obama writes an excuse for five-year-old Alanah Poullard, who skipped school to visit the White House. September, 2013

Alanah skipped Kindergarten for the day to attend an event for Wounded Warriors and their families, and personally asked the President to write her the note. This child is me. I am this child.

President Obama meets with students at an elementary school at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. September, 2014

President Obama meets with students at an elementary school at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. September, 2014

Barry specifically said, “Don’t make rabbit ears” so obviously it was Opposite Day and these kids did it anyways. Please also note the girl to his right, who is just clutching on to him as if he’s her uncle. That’s the kind of person we want in the White House.

President Barack Obama and a young boy point at each other as the President greets Marine personnel and their families at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets a young boy at the Marine Corps base Hawaii on Christmas Day, 2014

“Hey, I recognize you from the TV!”

President Barack Obama holds a baby during a U.S. Embassy meet and greet in Kingston, Jamaica, April 8, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

A baby grabs a hold of President Obama’s face in Kingston, Jamaica. April, 2015.

It’s cute when a baby does it, but if I did this I’d be tackled by Secret Service. Probs worth it.

President Obama gets to the level of baby Ella, daughter of Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, June, 2015. [Pete Souza]

President Obama gets to the level of baby Ella, daughter of Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, June, 2015.

Who doesn’t love tummy time in the Oval on top of the Presidential seal? Bonus: here’s a pic of Barry calling Ben when baby Ella was born in 2014. I mean. Literal precious moments.

June 17, 2015 “The President carries the twin boys of Katie Beirne Fallon, Director of Legislative Affairs, into the Oval Office just a few months after they were born.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Double trouble with the twin sons of Katie Beirne Fallon, Director of Legislative Affairs. June, 2015.

Tag yourself I’m the crying mom in the background, despite not knowing these children at all.

July 17, 2015 “The President greets nine-month-old Josephine Gronniger, whose father, Tim Gronniger, brought his family by the Oval Office for a family photo.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama has a mind meld with nine-month-old Josephine Gronniger. July, 2015.

I bet President Obama’s going to be the dad who keeps asking Sasha and Malia to have kids when they’re older so he can have grandbabies.

Sept. 21, 2015 “The President exchanges a wave with Alya Dorelien Bitar, one-year-old daughter of Maher Bitar, the outgoing National Security Council Director for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs, and his wife, Astrid Dorelien, during a family photo in the Oval Office.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Happy baby Alya Dorelien Bitar, one-year-old daughter of Maher Bitar, the outgoing National Security Council Director for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs, waves hello to the President. September, 2015.

I said hey what’s up hello.

President Obama plays with lucky baby Ella Rhodes in her Halloween costume. October, 2015.

Ella Rhodes, possibly the luckiest baby in the White House?

Dec. 4, 2015 “The President snuggles with his niece Savita Ng after his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and her family dropped by the Oval Office.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Hey remember Barack’s niece Savita from earlier? Yeah this is her. December, 2015

Like Sasha and Malia, Savita also grew up a lot during the course of her uncle’s tenure in the White House. And yet again, he reminds us that his family is American in the truest sense of the word.

Dec. 4, 2015 “The President acquiesced to a selfie with 11-year-old Jacob Haynes and four-year-old James Haynes after taking a family photograph with departing White House staffer Heather Foster.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Jacob Haynes, 11, snaps a selfie with the President as he holds Jacob’s four-year-old brother. December, 2015

But first – let me take a selfie (is that reference dated).

President Obama meets with Prince William and Princess Kate, and is introduced to Prince George, April 2016. [Pete Souza]

President Obama meets with Prince William and Princess Kate, and is introduced to Prince George. April 2016.

Prince George is too cool to suit up for Barry and decided to wear his daytime loungewear instead (I think he was actually about to take a nap).

April 14, 2016 “The President is always asking staff to bring their babies and young kids by for a visit. Here, during a break between meetings one afternoon, the President crawled around in the Oval Office with Communications Director Jen Psaki’s daughter Vivi.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President spends a break between meetings with Communications Director Jen Psaki’s daughter Vivi. April, 2016.

Just think about all the children who have crawled around the Oval with the President and how they’ve been blessed with his presence.

President Obama embraces eight-year-old Amariyanna Copeny, who wrote him a letter asking him to visit her hometown of Flint, Michigan as they battle the devastating water crisis and what she's doing to help. For a fun comparison, this is Amariyanna (also Little Miss Flint) meeting President-Elect T*ump.

President Obama embraces eight-year-old Amariyanna Copeny. May 2016.

Amariyanna wrote President Obama a letter asking him to visit her hometown of Flint, Michigan as they battle the devastating water crisis and what she’s doing to help. For a fun comparison, this is Amariyanna (also Little Miss Flint) meeting President-Elect T*ump.

Feb. 18, 2016 “I had my eye on this youngster while President Barack Obama spoke during a reception at the White House celebrating African American History Month. When the President starting greeting audience members along the rope line, I bent down in front of the young man and captured this moment of the President touching his face before he too bent down to greet him. Afterwards, I tracked down his name — Clark Reynolds — and had the President sign a copy for him.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama says hello to a young Clark Reynolds during an event for African-American History Month. February, 2016

Again, President Obama has of course been a role model to all children who have only known him to be the POTUS, but he’s especially been an iconic figure for many black children and teens who may not feel like they have a place in the American society. To see someone of such power that they can see a little of him in themselves is a moving and magical thing. *After this picture was taken by WH photog Pete Souza, he tracked down Clark’s name and had the President sign a copy for the tot to have.

June 22, 2016 “The great thing about children is you just don’t know what they will do in the presence of the President. So when David Axelrod stopped by the Oval Office with one of his sons’ family, Axe’s granddaughter, Maelin, crawled onto the Vice President’s seat while the President continued his conversation with the adults. Then at one point, Maelin glanced over just as the President was looking back at her.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

David Axelrod’s granddaughter casually crashes one of President Obama’s meetings. June, 2016

Isn’t it weird to think that for the kids whose parents work in the White House that it’s totally the norm they could run into the President of the United States? This pic was taken when former Obama campaign strategist Axelrod stopped by to speak with Barack, and in a pause from the conversation with the adults, he looked over to see little Maelin sitting in VP Joe Biden’s chair. Casually eating an apple because, Michelle.

Oct. 31, 2016 “The President was about to welcome local children for Halloween trick-or-treating when he ran into Superman Walker Earnest, son of Press Secretary Josh Earnest, in the Ground Floor Corridor of the White House. ‘Flex those muscles,’ he said to Walker.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President meets another superhero on Halloween. October, 2016

One of the best events to look at videos from is the annual Halloween parade, and last year, the President ran into Superman aka Walker Earnest, son ofPress Secretary Josh Earnest,. What happened is the most adorable thing that will leave your ovaries in pain. Watch here.

Nov. 8, 2016 “The President had just walked in from the dining room and sitting on the floor in the Oval Office was Evelyn ‘Evie’ Cushman, daughter of Chase Cushman, Director of Scheduling and Advance. He immediately dropped down to his hands and knees and began tossing a ball back and forth with her.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama spends part of Election Day with Evelyn ‘Evie’ Cushman, daughter of Chase Cushman, Director of Scheduling and Advance. November, 2016

Barack spends more time on the floor of the Oval with kids than the President-Elect has lawsuit against him. And that’s a lot. If I had the option to play around on the floor with a tot on Election Day, I would be doing this instead of work too.

Nov. 10, 2016 “A good respite from the day after the election was the visit of Alex Myteberi. The six-year-old boy from New York had written a letter to President Obama after seeing a heart-breaking photograph of Syrian refugee Omran Daqneesh sitting silently in an ambulance, covered in blood and dust, after an air strike on Aleppo. In his letter, Alex wrote to the President: ‘Can you please go get him and bring him to my home. We’ll be waiting for you guys with flags, flowers, and balloons. We will give him a family and he will be our brother. The President was so touched by the letter that he read excerpts from it at the United Nations in September. Alex and his family were invited to the Oval Office so the President could tell him in person how much the letter had meant to him.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Six-year-old Alex Myteberi meets with the President after writing a letter asking him to help a young Syrian refugee. November, 2016.

You’ve seen that heartbreaking photo of a young Syrian refugee covered in blood and dust after an air strike in Aleppo. So did Alex. He decided to write to President Obama asking him to help the refugee and bring him to his home in Scarsdale, New York so he could be their new brother. The President read the letter, invited Alex and his family to the White House and even read excerpts from the letter in a speech at the UN. If you’re in the mood for crying (or even if you’re not) watch Alex’s story here.

July 4th American-Themed Founding Fathers Costume Party!

Happy Independence Day! Ever since I was a kid, I’ve spent the first weeks of summer looking forward to July 4th, when I would have a classic American cookout, eat some kind of a dessert that uses strawberries and blueberries to replicate the American flag, enjoy the fireworks and play some good old-fashioned picnic games watch Revolutionary War documentaries on the History Channel. Although complaining about America is a tradition as old as the Declaration of Independence – and of course the U.S. of A. does have its problems – take a moment today to compare our country to some places across the globe: we have freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free, compulsory public education, and public parks and libraries open to anybody who wants to explore and learn. If that doesn’t make you want to chant U-S-A, U-S-A, nothing will.

But you don’t have to be from the United States to celebrate on the 4th of July – face it, no matter where you live, you’ve been exposed to American culture. So if you’re celebrating from overseas, here are some tips to throw a great American-Themed party (psst – Americans can do it, too!). My favorite parts: the name tags with names of American icons like Betsy Ross and Alexander Hamilton, the map where you try to fill in the names of the 50 states (no peeking!), and the mad libs approach to classic American speeches and songs like the Gettysburg Address and Oh, Susannah.

There’s always the issue of what to wear, though, and on July 4th I think the rule of the day is to be as cheesy and red, white and blue as possible. Think: whatever the summery, patriotic version of a Christmas sweater, you should wear that. We do have a few guidelines – the dos and don’ts of patriotic wear – if you don’t want to cross the line all the way into star-spangled Speedos.

However, if you’ve been inspired by Hamilton or by your once-a-year viewing of The Patriot, maybe you’ll want to get your all-American fashion inspiration from the founding fathers. Don’t worry, we’ve written a guide to founding father fashion too! Get out the tricorn caps, Yankee Doodle boys and girls. They probably won’t be the weirdest thing you’ll see somebody wear today.

One of our favorite pictures from the American-themed party post was a party in Poland where the hosts played the movie Pocahontas on the TV. We have some film recommendations in the party guide – American genres like baseball movies, war stuff, and Tom Cruise – but if you need a few more, here are some movies that make me love America.

Another age-old American tradition is losing to European and Latin American teams in soccer(/football). With the Olympics coming up, I should mention that our U.S. national teams are very good and I have high hopes! But during the last World Cup, we wrote a list of American things to do to get over the World Cup loss. The activities work just as well as a way to celebrate America!

Whether you’re an American celebrating the land of your birth, residence or citizenship, or a non-American trying your best to put up with us, we hope you have a spectacular July 4th! May all your hats be three-cornered, your parties American-themed, and your Solo Cups red.

 

 

This 4th Of July, Why Not Dress Like A Founding Father?

Ah, the Founding Fathers. They gave our nation its principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They also gave it style. So much style.

My first foray into Founding Fathers fashion was when I tried to use dry shampoo. Rather than combing out easily and leaving me with bouncy, shiny but not greasy-shiny locks, it clung to my hair like a white powder. I looked like Thomas Jefferson. Which is to say: amazing.

I leapt headfirst into Colonial Cool when I tried to wear slim-fitting Bermuda shorts even though I am 5’2 and should know better than to have dreams. They looked like old-timey breeches. Paul Revere wished he looked so good in knee-pants.

I haven’t accidentally worn a tricorne cap yet, but I’m sure it’s coming.

This weekend we celebrate Independence Day, and many will deck themselves out in tacky American Flag gear – because you don’t really love your country unless you turn Old Glory into a pair of hotpants or a bandana. It’s also the one time a year when we – well, some of us – look forward to History Channel and PBS documentaries about our nation’s earliest days.

And I say, why not combine those two passions: caring about history for a little while every year, and dressing like an all-American reject? Why not take our fashion advice from the golden age of elaborate men’s fashions? This July Fourth, ask yourself: what would John Hancock wear?

Powdered Wig

Anyone who’s anyone in the 18th century wore a powdered wig. They knew the secret that George Clooney and Roger Sterling brought to modern times: the most beautiful creature in the animal kingdom is a silver fox. Look at Thomas Jefferson’s snow-white locks – so natural and free! Or John Hancock, whose wig isn’t even pretending it’s not a wig:

So how will you recreate it? If you’re like me, you could try having the absolute wrong hair type for dry shampoo. Or you could just go for a white-gray dye and bleach job, which is all the rage on the hallowed halls of tumblr:

Breeches

Centuries before capris burst onto the scene, declaring to all and sundry “I’m on vacation! But I still don’t feel awesome about my legs, really!”, the founders of our great nation knew that the best pants were actually half a pair of pants. Check out Ralph Earl. Nay, check out Ralph Earl’s stocking-clad calves. It’s enough to make you fan yourself with your mob cap.

If you were holed up in a hot Philadelphia meeting hall with your buds in the Continental Congress, you didn’t want 100% of a pair of pants bringing you down. Not to mention, long pants weren’t really a thing yet. No, you wanted to show off your flair and keep cool with these slim, flattering cropped pants, decorated with a little embellishment above the knee.

Samuel Adams models the looser version, appropriate for even the most mutton-fed body types:

So how do you replicate the look today? Capris, bermudas, or for the traditionalist, a slick pair of riding pants:

Waistcoat

Go to your nearest hipster bar, used book shop, or bicycle store. Wait 5 minutes. You will see at least one young man in an undercut, facial hair, and a waistcoat.

I’m going to need you to steal his waistcoat.

You can tell him you’re doing it ironically.

Frock Coat

Is it a frock? Is it a coat? It’s a mother-lovin’ FROCK COAT, is what it is. What, too warm to wear on July 4th? Well they didn’t have air conditioning at Independence Hall. And freedom isn’t free.

Anyway, just because you’re drafting articles of Confederation doesn’t mean you need to neglect your articles of clothing:

See that? Frock coats. Frock coats as far as the eye can see. And lucky you, you can still buy them:

Buckles

So, what holds America together? A common goal, a dream of a better life, a love for liberty? No. Buckles. Buckles do. Buckles on your pants, buckles on your shoes, buckles on your hats, buckles on your buckles. It’s as though the founding fathers KNEW they had to buckle up, because this nation was in for a bumpy ride. One of the top items excavated from colonial sites: buckles. Because then, as now, we are just trying to keep it together.

With buckles.

How To Throw An American-Themed Party

Nobody does a themed party like American college kids — except, that is, for Europeans parodying American college kids. Somehow I’d never heard of these star-spangled fetes until Buzzfeed featured them last week, but they’re pretty darn awesome:

They’re not just using solo cups, they ARE the solo cups:

For some reason, there are always buckets of popcorn, although I’ve only ever seen those at a movie theater:

And marshmallows on toothpicks because… actually, I have no idea here. Maybe they’ve heard of s’mores and are just getting the “marshmallow on a stick” interpretation a little wrong:

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Finally, this bash from Poland is by far the best of all. Gold star, Poland. This is brilliant:

american party

So, you want to throw an American-themed party yourself? We can help! Whether you’ve never stepped foot in “the colonies” or whether you’ve lived here your whole life (which adds a whole other layer of hilarity to the proceedings), we have some tips:

Solo Cups

When people think American party, they think red plastic cups – typically called “Solo cups” stateside, after the most popular brand. There’s actually a reason for this: tv shows and movies avoid showing teens consuming alcohol, and even for adult parties, filmmakers may not want to show specific brands. Boom. Plastic cups – there could be anything in there! It doesn’t even have to be alcohol! (But it’s alcohol.)

In real life, these cups are pretty ubiquitous. There is an American country ode to the Red Solo Cup, so they’re as much a cultural institution as pickup trucks and barbeques. However, the cups also come in blue and yellow, so feel free to branch out a bit. If you have a keg or mixed drinks, you aren’t going to pour the bevs into a proper glass, at least not at a raging party where you’re going to drop it. But there’s an even more important reason that we all used these plastic cups in college….

Games

Drinking games. They have them everywhere, but some of them are as American as Uncle Sam eating a rocket pop on the Fourth of July. Play these responsibly – for liability purposes I should advise you to use water, juice, soda, or iced tea for these games. And plenty of them require solo cups:

  • Flip cup: Form two teams. The teams make lines facing each other. Everyone has an equal, small amount of “beverage” in their plastic cups. The first person in each line consumes the bev, places their cup upside down at the edge of the table, then must tip the cup up from the rim, flipping it over. The next person in line can’t go until the person before them has successfully flipped their cup, with it landing squarely back on its rim. First team to finish wins.
  • Knockout flip cup: same as above, but the losing team must vote to eliminate a member. (THOSE WHO FALL BEHIND GET LEFT BEHIND. AMERICA.  RUGGED INDIVIDUALISM. CAPITALISM. AYN RAND. Et cetera.)  The teams then face off again, and the losing team of that round eliminates a member as well. You keep going until one of the teams – the loser – has no members left.
  • Beer Pong: I’m not going to explain this. Just watch an American college movie. As with all of these games, this is played internationally as well, but your exposure to it will depend on where you live.
  • Civil War: Like beer pong, but with three 10-cup triangles across on each side, three balls in play, and three players on each team.  Any person with a ball can shoot at any time, except when there is a ball in a cup in the triangle in front of you – then you must drink the offending …. soda, or whatever … first. A person is “out” when all of the cups in front of them are gone. The first team to have all of their cups eliminated loses. If a ball falls alongside the table, the players can run for it and, if need be, fight for it. It gets hairy. [I went to college in New York, so I wonder if Southern college kids play this, but call it Beer Pong of Northern Aggression.]

There are also games that don’t require red plastic cups – instructions available online:

  • Kings
  • Never Have I Ever
  • Quarters

Name Tags

Okay, we don’t really wear name tags at parties in the U.S., but why not have name tags and let everyone pick an “American” name? If you are in your 20s or 30s, I suggest these common monickers:

  • Ladies: Jessica, Ashley, Katie, Sarah, Stephanie, Jenny, Nicole, Danielle, Melissa, Megan
  • Gentlemen: Jason, Matt, Mike, Nick, Chris, Dave, Dan, Ryan, Andrew, Jim

You can also pick names of patriotic figures from American history and culture of yesteryear:

  • Ladies: Betsy Ross, Martha Washington, Annie Oakley, Laura Ingalls, sorry we don’t have more ladies but we didn’t let them do stuff for those first few centuries, really.
  • Gentlemen: Uncle Sam, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan, Paul Revere, Davy Crockett

Patriotic Recitation Contests or Mad Libs

There are some American songs and speeches that are known world-wide. You could have a contest to see who can come the closest to singing or reciting the correct words to the following. I guarantee that people’s misheard lyrics and wrong guesses will be hilarious:

  • The Star-Spangled Banner
  • God Bless America
  • The Pledge of Allegiance
  • The Gettysburg Address
  • America The Beautiful
  • America (also known as My Country ‘Tis Of Thee, this song cribs the melody of God Save The Queen. When I was trying to figure out what song was called “America”, my brain went to “A-mer-i-ca, my home and native land.” That was wrong. That is Canada’s national anthem, with the word America stuck in front. Sorry, Canada. Sorry, America.)

Or, you could try these super-American children’s and folk songs:

  • Yankee Doodle
  • Take Me Out To The Ballgame
  • I’ve Been Working On The Railroad
  • Oh My Darling Clementine
  • Skip To My Lou
  • Oh, Susannah
  • She’ll Be Coming ‘Round The Mountain
  • Polly Wolly Doodle

Yes, those are all real songs.

You could also do  “mad libs.” Print out a sheet with the lyrics to these songs, but with blanks in the place of some of the words. Then see what people come up with. The funniest entry wins.

Food

Here’s your big chance to find out why we Americans are so fat. We don’t actually eat most of these things at parties … but isn’t that exactly what you’d expect an American to say because we’re sensitive about being so fat? Here are some treats that just scream “USA! USA!”:

  • Hot dogs (or miniature hot dogs)
  • Hamburgers
  • Potato Chips
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Peanut Butter (any American who’s lived abroad and tried to get their hands on peanut butter knows how hard this can be to find! You could make small, party-sized PB&J sandwiches. The PB is peanut butter, and the J is jelly, by which we mean jam. The seedless grape variety is both the most traditional and, in my eyes, the most disgusting.)
  • Oreos and Milk
  • Rocket Pops (red, white and blue Popsicles. It’s not that we eat them often, but they always remind me of summer and Independence Day.)
  • Chili
  • Apple Pie (I don’t even like Apple Pie, and Americans eat far less apple pie than the phrase “American as apple pie” would suggest, but I’d be remiss to leave it off the list.)
  • Boxed Macaroni & Cheese
  • S’mores, if you have some sort of fire situation handy. You can make them in the microwave, but it’s not the same.

Movies

SO MAJESTIC.

I think we should all give a big round of applause to our pals in Poland for their selection, Pocahontas. Truly inspired. Here are some other red, white, and blue gems to play in the background of your party:

  • Baseball Movies: A League Of Their Own, Field Of Dreams, The Sandlot, Bull Durham, Bad News Bears, Angels In The Outfield
  • Iconic American Childhood films: Stand By Me, Now And Then, Little Women, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Little Rascals, Matilda (YES. YES, WE KNOW. But the movie was set in the ol’ U.S. of A.), My Girl, The Parent Trap (because maybe you’d feel more comfortable if half of the action is in London), Space Jam, Home Alone
  • Teen Fare: Grease, Clueless, Mean Girls, The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 10 Things I Hate About You
  • Patriotic Stuff With Wars In It: The Patriot, 1776, Gettysburg, Glory, Gone With The Wind, Saving Private Ryan, Flags Of Our Fathers
  • The Most American Movie of all: Forrest Gump, obviously. Or basically anything with Tom Hanks in it. Tom Hanks freakin’ loves America.
  • Tom Cruise movies: Top Gun, Mission: Impossible, Jerry Maguire, Risky Business
  • Will Smith movies: Men In Black, Independence Day
  • Westerns: The only person I know who watches Westerns in earnest is my dad, so I’m afraid I can’t help you there. He’d probably recommend stuff with John Wayne in it.

Drink

If it’s supposed to be like an American college party, you can try to get your hands on these cold, brewed fonts of liquid disappointment:

  • Keystone Lite
  • Milwaukee’s Best – The beer so bad that you’re like “Milwaukee. What the heck are you doing?” And the name of the beer, itself, responds “Ugh… My best.” Milwaukee is just doing its best, guys.
  • Busch Light
  • Natty Ice – I think the full name is Natural Ice but I don’t even know.
  • Pabst Blue Ribbon

Or, you could try these non-alcoholic American favorites:

  • Kool-Aid
  • Lemonade (it’s different from European lemonade!)
  • Iced tea
  • Sweet tea
  • Actual tea, but made incorrectly, according to everyone in the UK.
  • Soda (BECAUSE WE’RE FAT. We understand.)

You could also look up American mixed drink recipes, of course.

Wardrobe

Okay, a lot of you are onto it, in a stereotypical way anyway: plaid, jerseys, baseball caps. But let’s get a little more particular:

  • The American Hipster: Facial hair (for men), bangs (for women), skinny jeans, an undersized plaid shirt, Converse
  • The Super-Fan: T-shirt, sweatshirt, and hat for various professional or college sports teams
  • The South-Western Classic: Plaid shirt, jeans, cowboy boots, cowboy hat. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone wear this in real life. Maybe at a country concert?
  • The Duggar: A long denim skirt or jumper, very buttoned-up top, clunky ugly shoes, permed hair.
  • The Person Of Wal-Mart: Pajama pants as pants, a large t-shirt featuring a cartoon character (ideally Tweety or Betty Boop) saying something “sassy”, or emblazoned with some other sort of “sassy” saying that’s not all-the-way funny, like “My Boyfriend’s Out of Town!” and then a picture of a kitten, sneakers.
  • The American Tourist: a camera, a fanny pack (yes, we know about that also), oversized sneakers
  • The Face of Yesteryear: Dress like a pilgrim, or an old-timey pioneer
  • The Jingoist: Wear a lot of red, white, and blue. Like, a whole lot.

The Decor

Well, Red, White and Blue, obviously. Because America. But you could make the decor into a game, too!

  • Print out pictures of the American presidents, number them, and tape them to the walls. Each person has a sheet of paper and they write the name of the president that corresponds with each numbered picture. The person with the most correct wins.
  • Same as above, but print out pictures of different American figures, landmarks, and items. For example, things like sports team logos, professional actors, the Statue of Liberty, covered wagons, the St. Louis Arch, Lucille Ball … Google is your friend, here.
  • Print multiple large non-labelled maps of the United States – or one very big map. Provide markers. Let guests label the different states or regions of the U.S. as best they can. Evidence shows that this will be very funny:

    SQUARESIES.

    MIDDLESHIRE. GUNS. Europe’s got jokes. Honestly just go look at all of these.

You can make Americans label maps of other lands. They won’t be good at it. For instance, Just last week my nephew and I were looking at a map of Canada, and he asked me where New Mexico was.  I said “Charley, New Mexico’s part of the United States.”

“Yeah,” the kid deadpanned, “But so’s Canada.”

American Party Archetypes

The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started A Conversation With At A Party – Cecily Strong. Look up the vids, non-Americans!

Most American college parties have the following people present. Please do try to invite them:

  • One drunk girl who is crying, accompanied by one friend who is trying to find out what the problem is.
  • Another friend of those girls who is saying something like “enough of this drama, I just want to dance.”
  • A guy who corners you with his “wit” and “sense of humor,” which actually means that he is quoting lines from comedy films of the past 10 years.
  • The couple who only talks to each other so why did they even bother leaving their house.
  • A person who is looking at or typing into their phone the entire time, even when speaking with you.
  • The person who takes unflattering photos of everyone and threatens to post them on social media.

Music

We already made a playlist of Fourth of July tunes, but there are some genres to consider:

  • Country. Of course. Just be aware that back in the Myspace days, when people used to write what genre of music they were interested in, about 50% of people simply wrote “anything but country” – so it’s not a clear-cut American favorite.
  • Rap. Yes, we know that other countries have rappers. It’s very cute.
  • Old-school 60s Doo-Wop and Motown.
  • Modern indie-folk-country.
  • American icons: James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen, etc.
  • Jazz. Not your typical party music, but it started here first.

Have a great American-themed party! If it goes well – or very, very poorly – send us a link to the pictures. AMERICA FOREVER.