Barack Obama shares Indian American woman’s letter inspired by Michelle Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama react while waiting for the arrival of the Iceland Prime Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson and his wife at a state dinner in the White House during the U.S.-Nordic Leaders Summit in Washington, U.S. May 13, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

NEW YORK: Former President Barack Obama shared a poignant letter from an Indian American woman, now 38 years old and a mother of a 3-year-old boy, who wrote to both him and former First Lady Michelle Obama, to thank them for the inspiration they provided to her since she was a teenager.

The woman signed off the letter as Sindhu I. President Obama shared the letter on March 8, on the occasion of the International Women’s Day.

Sindhu first heard Michelle Obama speak when she was 17 years old, in a chapel, in 1996. That speech transformed her life, became a guiding light for her, to do good in society.

“But she will never forget the fire that was lit to make something of her life, and to use that life to serve others,” Sindhu writes of that inspirational moment for her own self, in the letter.

Here’s the full text of the letter:

To: Michelle and Barack Obama

From: Sindhu I.

Date: January 21, 2017

Subject: I’m in

One day in September of 1996, an idealistic 17-year-old Indian girl was inspired while sitting in a chapel. She didn’t remember the name of the woman who spoke. But she will never forget the fire that was lit to make something of her life, and to use that life to serve others. That week, she signed up to be a volunteer at the hospital and signed up for an after-school program teaching creative writing and literature for underserved children in the community.

Twenty-one years later, that girl is now a 38-year-old woman, a bit older in body, sometimes a bit jaded, but much younger in spirit. That woman fires up medical students to be passionate about behavioral sciences and psychiatry, serves children and adults struggling with mental illness, and continues an after-school outreach program to teach 6th graders about how to care for their mental health. That torch lit as a freshman at the University of Chicago continues to be ablaze.

That 17-year-old was me. I later found out that the inspirational powerhouse of a woman who spoke was Michelle Obama.

I wanted to say thank you to the both of you. Thank you, Michelle, for helping a vulnerable teenager raised to comply to start to challenge the notion that she was powerless. Thank you, Michelle, for teaching by both words and example that the best uses of power and influence was in the service of others and our community. Thank you to both of you for your profound levels of activism within our community, leading up to a historic event that I did not think I would witness in my lifetime. Thank you for how you treated children, both your own and all of America’s, with kindness, humor, and spontaneity.

I am now a middle-aged Indian woman who is married to an Indian feminist man and raising a feminist 3-year-old son (whose middle name is Atticus and who thinks he is actually Thomas the train.) They are amazing. The ways in which you have impacted the world have left me expecting so much more from our world. And I know that this is not an expectation I can have without being part of that change. The events from this week, this amazing women’s march, echoed globally that the expectations I have are not ones I hold in isolation. I want a different world. I need a different world.

So when you get back from your vacation, I wanted to let you know.

I’m in.

Sindhu I.



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