White House Aide Recounts The Obama Goodbye That Made Kal Penn Tear up

"My parents could never have fathomed such an idea."

Former Barack Obama White House aide Gary Lee took to Twitter this weekend to document an exchange he had with the former president when leaving his position that has struck a chord with thousands online. Noting that he's "never tweeted before but today felt like a good day to start," Lee discussed how he came to work in politics, how his immigrant parents supported him as he pursued his dreams, not only then, but throughout his life, and how one interaction with his former boss, in particular, illustrated how he views the country. As of publication, Lee's thread has been retweeted and responded to by thousands.


In 2007, after meeting then-presidential candidate Obama, Lee mailed his resume and cover letter to the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago asking for a job. After the campaign, Lee worked in the White House, a position he left in 2011 for a Fulbright scholarship in Korea, where he hoped to learn more about his parents' culture. 

Lee goes on to write that on his last day working for Obama, the then-president greeted him in Korean. He recounted the story to Kal Penn, who was working in the Office of Public Engagement at the time, who Lee notes started tearing up at the exchange. When he asked Penn why he was crying, Lee writes that Penn responded, "think about what you just said. How incredible that is. On your last day of work at the White House, after your years of service, the first African-American president greeted you in your parents' native language."

At this, Lee said he, too, started to cry. 

The above video is courtesy of our partners.

"My parents could never have fathomed such an idea," he wrote. "My mom came to the US when she was 18, my father when he was 26. They worked multiple full-time and part-time jobs, opened a small business, and at one point, had only $20 in their checking account.

"They made incalculable sacrifices so their sons could have the opportunities they never had. They sacrificed so we could achieve whatever we wanted to. They could have never imagined that their eldest son would work in the White House. In what other country is that even possible?"

Before wishing everyone happy Korean-American day and Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, Lee summed up his story as this: "What a beautiful, incredible nation of immigrants we are." 

Read Lee's full thread below.

A Plus has reached out to Lee for comment.


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