Email from President Obama: “What our veterans teach us”

This Veterans Day, President Obama sent a message to the Obama Foundation email list lifting up the service and sacrifice of our veterans, and the thousands of people who are doing their part to make positive change in their communities. If you’d like to get updates like this and be among the first to know about Foundation news, you can sign up for our email list here

Today is a day to recognize those who have honored our country with its highest form of service.

We owe our veterans our thanks. Our respect. Our freedom. 

Today, we humbly acknowledge that we can never truly serve our veterans in quite the same way that they served us. But we can try. We can practice kindness. We can volunteer. We can serve. We can respect one another. We can have each other’s backs.

Yesterday, I dropped by a service project in Northeast D.C., where a group of veteran volunteers were preparing for a project to help revitalize the Langston Terrace public housing project. Langston Terrace, the first federally funded housing project in D.C., was built in the 1930s as part of President Roosevelt’s Public Works Administration. Its 274 units provided affordable shelter for families trying to get back on their feet after the Great Depression. And today, a group of veterans are fixing it up, working alongside members of their Washington, D.C., community.

Just think about that for a moment. On a day dedicated to honoring their sacrifice, these veterans chose to honor their fellow citizens. Lift up their own communities. They chose, on this day, to roll up their sleeves and ask, “Now, what else can I do?”

That is true service. The pure and selfless personal agency that makes us who we are as Americans.

Thousands of you are doing this every day, in your own communities. Folks like Kyle, from Germantown, Maryland. Kyle wrote Michelle and me earlier this year to tell us about Washington D.C.’s Dog Tag Bakery, where she works. Dog Tag helps support disabled veterans, military spouses, and caregivers during their transitions into civilian life by providing them with valuable work experience. (They also happen to bake, as Kyle puts it, “the most amazing brownie you’ve ever had.”) Kyle told us how inspired she was by her colleagues’ strength and commitment to service. She wrote that we should all “support this transition for those who have sacrificed so much for our country and well being” — and I couldn’t agree more.

Notes like Kyle’s remind me that one of the many ways we contribute as citizens is by holding each other accountable — by encouraging each other to stand up and do better. 

We’ve been asking folks all around the country to share with us what they’re committed to changing in their communities in the next few months. Join them by making a commitment of your own today.

Every day, we walk among citizens willing to lay down their lives for strangers like us. 

Today, we can show our own love for our country by loving our neighbors as ourselves. By rolling up our sleeves, and asking: “Now, what else can I do?”

May God bless all who served, and still do.