Sample Legacy Letters
A father blesses his daughters. (Barack Obama)
A mother celebrates her liver transplant with her son.
A mother shares the preciousness of life with her daughters.
A son appreciates the legacy from his mother.
I know that you've both had a lot of fun these last two years on the campaign trail, going to picnics and parades and state fairs, eating all sorts of junk food your mother and I probably shouldn't have let you have. But I also know that it hasn't always been easy for you and Mom, and that as excited as you both are about that new puppy, it doesn't make up for all the time we've been apart. I know how much I've missed these past two years, and today I want to tell you a little more about why I decided to take our family on this journey.
When I was a young man, I thought life was all about me—about how I'd make my way in the world, become successful, and get the things I want. But then the two of you came into my world with all your curiosity and mischief and those smiles that never fail to fill my heart and light up my day. And suddenly, all my big plans for myself didn't seem so important anymore. I soon found that the greatest joy in my life was the joy I saw in yours. And I realized that my own life wouldn't count for much unless I was able to ensure that you had every opportunity for happiness and fulfillment in yours. In the end, girls, that's why I ran for President: because of what I want for you and for every child in this nation.
I want all our children to go to schools worthy of their potential—schools that challenge them, inspire them, and instill in them a sense of wonder about the world around them. I want them to have the chance to go to college—even if their parents aren't rich. And I want them to get good jobs: jobs that pay well and give them benefits like health care, jobs that let them spend time with their own kids and retire with dignity.
I want us to push the boundaries of discovery so that you'll live to see new technologies and inventions that improve our lives and make our planet cleaner and safer. And I want us to push our own human boundaries to reach beyond the divides of race and region, gender and religion that keep us from seeing the best in each other.
Sometimes we have to send our young men and women into war and other dangerous situations to protect our country—but when we do, I want to make sure that it is only for a very good reason, that we try our best to settle our differences with others peacefully, and that we do everything possible to keep our servicemen and women safe. And I want every child to understand that the blessings these brave Americans fight for are not free—that with the great privilege of being a citizen of this nation comes great responsibility.
That was the lesson your grandmother tried to teach me when I was your age, reading me the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence and telling me about the men and women who marched for equality because they believed those words put to paper two centuries ago should mean something.
She helped me understand that America is great not because it is perfect but because it can always be made better—and that the unfinished work of perfecting our union falls to each of us. It's a charge we pass on to our children, coming closer with each new generation to what we know America should be.
I hope both of you will take up that work, righting the wrongs that you see and working to give others the chances you've had. Not just because you have an obligation to give something back to this country that has given our family so much—although you do have that obligation. But because you have an obligation to yourself. Because it is only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential.
These are the things I want for you—to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach, and to grow into compassionate, committed women who will help build that world. And I want every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive that you girls have. That's why I've taken our family on this great adventure.
I am so proud of both of you. I love you more than you can ever know. And I am grateful every day for your patience, poise, grace, and humor as we prepare to start our new life together in the White House.
You were aware, you were here to witness the most historically important event of my lifetime. I want to give you some background to the miracle of Barack Obama’s swearing in ceremony as he became the President of the United States of America.
In 1952 when I was 10 years old, my dad and mom drove our family to Florida. It was my first time driving through the South and the first time I remember seeing ‘negroes’. Their dilapidated houses, which we called shanties, lined the sides of the roads, sometimes had only three walls, some had boards missing on the roofs. My nose was pressed to the window and I felt pity and curiosity and confusion and fear. I didn’t know about life beyond Edina and downtown Minneapolis. We stopped to get something to eat and I wouldn’t eat the food from their stores, accepting only a coke because it was in a bottle.
In the 50’s and 60’s my eyes were further opened by protests and civil rights workers killed and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, and race riots as the struggle for equal rights played itself out. What an awful truth knowing that our country was wrong, when I had been raised to believe we were close to perfect and comprehending some of the ‘truth’ of the lives of African Americans. The knowledge that life is horribly unfair and my blessed life was an accident of birth was humbling and in some way shameful.
During the fall of 2004 I was invited to attend a gathering to meet a young black man running for the Illinois senate seat. He had spoken at the Democratic Convention and I was impressed by his vision for America. When he arrived on the lawn of a Lake Harriet mansion I can only tell you that there was an aura around him. I didn’t have to see him to know where he was. I don’t remember what he said, only that he excited and inspired all of us. This young charismatic man, who happened to be black, with grace and passion shared his belief that we could become a better nation. Finally, I had found someone I wanted to support, this man who filled me with hope, that he and we could bring about change. He believed in the greatness of our people as I was horrified that my countrymen were about to re-elect George Bush. When Barack decided to run for president I feared that our people were still asleep and wouldn’t hear his message, but he won Iowa and the impossible no longer was. Everywhere men and women of all backgrounds were listening and starting to believe that we could be THE United States of America, that honesty and openness, caring for those who are vulnerable and leading by example were values worth fighting for. This man, Barack Hussein Obama, who happened to be black, brilliant and articulate, compassionate and idealistic, shared his ideas and he was heard.
Martin Luther King, Jr. asked that we not be judged by the color of our skin but rather by the content of our character and that day November 4, 2008 arrived in my lifetime. The enormity of the emotions of that night and the days to follow can not be expressed in words. We celebrated, we cheered, we laughed, we hugged each other and many of us wept because the joy was too deep, the significance too great and the price too heavy, and we continue to weep and to rejoice.
The lesson witnessed is that ANYTHING is possible and dreams can come true.
My prayer for you, dear loves of my life, is that you pay attention to the world around you and not just your world. That you see others through eyes of love and not fear, that you are quick to see the similarities and slow to see the differences. I pray that you are open to the miracles all around you and the divine in all you meet.
Melissa, Nick and Jessie, each of you is a miracle and each divine.
I love you, Baba
© 2009 Martha A. Lewis
My Beloved Nieces and Nephews –
I want you to know what is important to me, and I leave you this legacy:
Each of you has added a rich and beautiful texture to my life since the day of your birth! I have forever watched over you, hoped the best for you and shared many family adventures with you.
For four generations, my eyes have also watched our family struggle with alcoholism - grandparents, parents, my siblings and now some of you, the youngest among us. Alcoholism robs the family of joy, trust, hope and enthusiasm – even if you are not the alcoholic. Some of the harshest pain that I have ever known was watching my Dad’s suffering with addiction for over thirty years and Mom’s umbilical dance with this devil we call alcoholism.
Yet somehow, early on, I was inspired to step away from home and try to change the nature of my engagement with Life. Rather than follow the familial paths that I'd known, I've worked hard to foster my own wellbeing, joy and wonder for Life. At the same time, I have always been willing to step back into the fray of family struggles in hopes that I could hold up different paths and choices for you to see.
I pray that, if you would honor me and accept one small gift, then let it be this thought: Let true joy be the only addiction in your life! If joy eludes you, then change the nature of your engagement with this wondrous world. Simply try something different! Hope, inspiration and wonder are far more worthy companions than alcohol. Trust this, and God will guide you to your joy!
All my love,
© 2009 Darcy Rowe
My dear Son:
In this season of autumn it is time for me to harvest my blessings. As I look out my window and gaze on the tree of hope and the tree of gratitude, I am reminded of the tree planting ceremony on the one year anniversary of my liver transplant. Today is my fourteen year post transplant anniversary and I rejoice at the second chance at life.
I am very grateful to have such a loving son. Your love and presence was so much a part of my healing journey. As we well know, life is very fragile and in an instant happiness and joy can change to sorrow. The sudden death of your Dad was a vivid reminder.
My wish for you is to seize the moment – let your radiance shine. Take time for silence and renewal. Create ritual and celebrations in your life. Don’t sweat the small stuff. I am certain with your education and work in the environment, you will leave soft footprints on our planet. I am reminded of the words from a James Taylor song, “Shower the people you love with love; let them know that you care.”
I love you. I love life. May we be blessed with many more amazing joyful years together!
© 2007 Patricia Wilson
Dear Alyssa and Suzanne,
Aug 1, 2007 was a life-changing event for me. I was driving my usual route home from a work related meeting in Shoreview…crossing the bridge on I - 35W. The traffic was slow because of repairs being made and my car clock showed it was 6:00. I patiently waited as traffic moved slowly on the bridge and finally arrived home at about 6:20. My phone was ringing as a friend was calling to ask me if I was watching the news on TV. I told him that I had just got home and he said turn it on. It was then that I realized…I had made it over the I – 35W Bridge by just five minutes. As Senator Amy Klobuchar has expressed, “A bridge in America just shouldn’t fall down.” But…one did and it collapsed in Minneapolis.
Once again I’m reminded how precious life is. So my beloved daughters, Alyssa and Suzanne, this blessing is for you – to reinforce and hope you will never forget how important today is.
Give thanks for today because we don’t know what tomorrow brings. Happiness and hope can quickly turn to sorrow and loss. So please make sure to not only say your thank-yous, but share your inner feelings of love and values. Don’t wait…seize the moment. Smile at everyone no matter where paths cross or whether friend or stranger. Your inner radiance is G-d’s gift for you to share. And make it your obligation to illuminate the sky when darkness is all around us. We don’t always grasp what we have or who we are until it is almost taken from us. So please, be present…don’t hurry through life forgetting to say I love you…I love life.
I love you…
© 2007 Sara C. Jaehne
I think one of the most horrific events a parent could experience is outliving their children, so if that happens I want you to know what legacy you have handed down to me.
I know I wasn’t the easiest child to raise and at points I added much pain and sorrow to your days; however, I learned through your love and dedication many life lessons that I want to share with you.
Early in life you showed what true sacrifice is by working two jobs to provide for Cathy and me after the divorce. You instilled in me a strong work ethic and how important it is to put in an honest day’s work. Perseverance is a trait that I witnessed as you trudged through an abusive marriage that was filled with violence, blatant disrespect, infidelity and fear.
As I fell into the depths of drug addiction, your unconditional love never wavered and you are still my biggest fan. You have given me hope that love can conquer all things and that change is possible in even the darkest of moments.
I am sharing this with you because I don’t ever want to wake up and have you not know how much I appreciate your love and guidance.
With my love,
© 2007 Brian Juul