Dear Sasha and Malia Obama,
My dad has a terrible sense of humor. He will talk to anyone and everyone, at all times of the day. He turns a two-item grocery list into a ninety-minute social event. I rolled my eyes and felt embarrassed many times during my childhood.
Fortunately, my dad was a hard-working man well known in his community but unknown anywhere else. I didn’t have to appear on international television when he interviewed for a job, and my wardrobe choices weren’t a matter of national concern. When I had rough times as a teenager, as nearly all teenagers do, I could grow up in the anonymity of Everywhere USA.
I’m sorry you haven’t been given this same opportunity. Sure, growing up in the White House has its perks. You won’t want for nice clothes, good schools, neat gadgets, or material comforts. Typically, I say that most of us need to practice gratitude for our blessings.
You, however, have unfairly been thrust into the public spotlight due to an “adult” (I use this word loosely) who made you the target of an unconscionable attack. I won’t repeat the charges or names; there’s no reason to give publicity to the mean-spirited.
I’d like to apologize on behalf of “adults” everywhere who feel entitled to take out their bitterness, jealousy, and sanctimonious judgement on you. I’d also like to thank you for keeping your teenage angst and rebellion out of the limelight. I’m sure you argue with your parents and talk back to them (I’d be worried if you didn’t), but you have not shamed the nation with drunken brawls or drug scandals.
It’s tough to grow up in the spotlight. (Just ask Chelsea Clinton.) It’s hard for pastors’ kids, teachers’ kids, and politicians’ kids. If I may give you one piece of advice, it would be this:
Mean kids won’t go away.
The mean girls and boys at your school will grow up (at least some of them) into mean adults who say and do nasty things. They might become abusers, criminals, or seemingly sainted ordinary people who carry out their nastiness through perfectly legitimate means.
One of my favorite television characters, Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife (I know, I’m dating myself with an “old” show), said that being forced into the negative spotlight inoculated her to nasty personal attacks. She also said that when the opposition has to resort to personal attacks, it has nothing of substance.
I hope you will use this nastiness to learn compassion for those who are bullied by others, children and adults alike. When someone at school says something unkind about someone else, I hope you’ll speak up or at least give a disapproving glare. When you grow into smart, capable women, I hope you will remember how it felt to be teenagers and shamed by a nasty woman with a computer…and reach out to the next generation.
You deserve better, Sasha and Malia. So do kids everywhere. I hope you will help to create a better world.
With all of my respect,