A Letter to My Friends
by Opal Lee

December 2, 2016 


Dear President Obama,

Would you believe it's 2:00 O'clock in the morning and I've been woke for an hour contemplating writing you another letter. I kept thinking about your book "The Audacity of Hope"  until I got up, went to the living room, picked up the book from the coffee table, came back to bed and read the Epilogue. The book is yellow with age, but I couldn't help thinking how much I want the same things you want. I just don't seem to know how to put it into words.

I know the presidency has changed a great many things for you and life has done the same for me these 90 years, but I believe we have plenty in common. One being that I have the audacity to hope that the 19th of June will become a national holiday. I've said this over and over and over to myself, to others and to you. Although the future looks dim for my seeing you before you leave office, I'll keep trying. I'll keep walking, I'll keep talking until a president hears us. Oh how I wish it was you! They say it took President Reagan to make a holiday for MLK when President Carter wouldn’t do it, but I’d hate for the same to be said of Juneteenth.

At our last encounter in Durham, NC after your speech for Sec. Hillary Clinton, you came down and shook our hands. I tried to hold on to your arm, as I tried to put a letter in your shirt pocket, to get you to acknowledge me for we've met several time before in Dallas twice and in Ft Worth.

I have the audacity to believe we will meet again and you'll tell me what has given you pause about Juneteenth and what could be done to make it a national day of observance. I have the audacity to hope that the celebration can be a unifier as it took many - abolitionists (black & white), Quakers, editors/publishers, etc. - to free the slaves. I have the audacity to hope that Juneteenth could be celebrated from the 19th of June to the 4th of July and that Juneteenth theme parks could be all over the nation depicting what Blacks have contributed to the strength of this nation. I'm going to convince the mayor and city council of Fort Worth to consider such a venture.

I've not giving up hope that I will get to see you and talk to you before you leave office. I've imagine myself walking with you on your morning walk, you do still walk daily don't you? You'd have to adjust your stride just a little, but I'm sure you'd give me some sorely needed answers on how to make June 19th a national holiday .

I’m reminded of a prayer from the book “Everything Must Change” by Brian McLaren :

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships so that we may live from deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of God's creations so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain unto joy.

And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in the world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done: To bring justice and kindness to all our children and all our neighbors who are poor.




Opal Lee
Juneteenth Chair


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