Three years ago, almost to the day, I left the White House for a new life back home in Alabama. As he does with all departing staffers, the President invited me into the Oval Office for a few moments to say goodbye and have a photo made. He was gracious with his time and asked me about my plans to return home, and we discussed my upcoming creative projects and our mutual love of Walker Percy’s writing.
Through editing countless photographs made by White House photographers Pete Souza, Chuck Kennedy, and Lawrence Jackson, I was witness to the President's daily life and able to see and sift a moment-by-moment record of his official public duties and his private moments. And now as many of the photographs I helped edit and share with the world are being reviewed again in these final days and hours of his presidency, I too have had the chance to reflect on these last few years and consider who I was three years ago and who I've become since. Some of the goals I shared with the President that day in the Oval Office have been met, others exceeded, some not nearly reached. In the last three years I've experienced great joy and unexpected success as well as deep disappointment and unimaginable loss.
In my life, and now in the life of our Nation, the idea of Hope is at risk of being eclipsed by Fear. But I hold on to the prospect that through whatever comes next - victory or failure, happiness or heartbreak - I, and my fellow citizens, may be able to face it with the same kind of deep conviction, humor, intelligence, class and integrity that I saw exercised each day by President Obama as he wielded a profound power with an even more profound sense of kindness, grace, and humility.
Three years ago I was able to thank the president for the opportunity to help document his and his family's life. If given the chance to do it again today, I would thank him for leading our Nation as a great president and exemplifying what it is to be a great man.
*Official White House photo by Pete Souza.