Sadness isn’t always something I can control. There are periods in my life when I remember being slick with a sadness that I could not shake. Other times, though, it’s been a choice. I’ve luxuriated in sorrow, rolling up good and tight in the all-consuming oblivion of it.

Last night as I sat down to watch President Obama give his farewell speech I was numb. The first few moments as I watched him walk out on stage I shook with fear that he would be assassinated. Dramatic? Sure, but lately the political and social realm has teetered toward the inconceivable. As he began talking I settled in, listening and remembering watching him be sworn in with the girls in our laps.

As it really dawned on me what the speech meant, I felt sadness overwhelm me. The tears were timid at first, but with one body-wracking sob, I was done. I crumpled against Sean and wept. I wept for old hurts, dashed hopes, and then I wept for what this man and his family have given us. The magnitude of sacrifice and the degree to which they all faced criticism, scorn, and ridicule without flinching. He is the only President our girls have known. Michelle Obama is their only First Lady.

There is so much that I could be sad about, but because I am able, in large part because of the words he chose last night, I am not sad. I am filled with gratitude for the Obamas and with purpose for the role that my family will play in continuing to speak up and show up to the political and social process.