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Five years ago today, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the right to same-sex marriage. That evening, thousands of people gathered to celebrate in front of the White House, decked out in every color of the rainbow. Malia and I couldn’t just sit inside and watch this moment pass us by. So we snuck past the Secret Service agents in the White House, past our wonderful kitchen staff and into the humid air of a D.C. summer night. We joined in with everyone as anonymously as we could, just two more proud Americans cheering on progress and the simple—and newly constitutionally protected—fact: love is love. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I’ll never forget that evening. Not only was it the culmination of decades of hard work and struggle from countless LGBTQ+ activists, it had come during a particularly heavy week for many Americans. Earlier that day, Barack and I had attended the funeral of Reverend Clementa Pinckney in Charleston, South Carolina. Here was another instance of thousands of people coming together—this time in mourning of the nine beautiful souls we lost at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church—to share in their grief, their resilience, and their hope for a better world. It was a terrible tragedy, bound up in the sin of racial hatred. And yet—we all left that service overwhelmed by grace. Amazing grace.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Thinking back to that day reminds me of how much strength we can find in one another, in good times and in bad. We’ve seen it again over these past few weeks. Our grief and anger have been channeled into passionate protests. Lifelong organizers and first-time marchers of all backgrounds are joining hands and pushing for change. And we’re beginning to have new conversations, and see the start of some real, measurable progress. It makes me think back to nights like this one, five years ago today—a night that reminds us that the fight is worth it. Because a fairer, more just, and more loving world is always possible.⁣⁣
Most of us were taught that slavery came to an end when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. But as is so often the case, the full promise of this country was delayed for segments of the African-American community. And for enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, freedom didn’t come until June 19, 1865.⁣ ⁣ And what I love about #Juneteenth is that even in that extended wait, we still find something to celebrate. Even though the story has never been tidy, and Black folks have had to march and fight for every inch of our freedom, our story is nonetheless one of progress. I think of my own family’s journey. Both of my grandfathers were the grandchildren of enslaved people. They grew up in the Jim Crow South and migrated north in search of a better life. But even then, they were still shut out of jobs and schools and opportunities because of the color of their skin. But they pressed forward with dignity and with purpose, raising good kids, contributing to their communities, and voting in every election. And though they didn’t live to see it themselves, I can see the smiles on their faces knowing that their great-granddaughters ended up playing ball in the halls of the White House—a magnificent structure built by enslaved Americans.⁣ ⁣ All across the country, there are so many more parts to this story—the generations of families whose work and service and protest has led us forward, even if the promise we seek is often delayed. This Juneteenth, let’s all pledge to keep using our voices—and our votes—to keep that story marching forward for our own children, and theirs.