Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama are celebrating the life and legacy of Queen Elizabeth, who died Thursday at age 96, and recounting how the matriarch welcomed the couple “to the world stage with open arms and extraordinary generosity.”
“Michelle and I were lucky enough to come to know Her Majesty, and she meant a great deal to us,” the former president wrote in a statement released Thursday. “Back when we were just beginning to navigate life as President and First Lady, she welcomed us to the world stage with open arms and extraordinary generosity.”
He continued: “Time and again, we were struck by her warmth, the way she put people at ease, and how she brought her considerable humour and charm to moments of great pomp and circumstance.”
Obama said he and Michelle were “grateful to have witnessed Her Majesty’s dedicated leadership, and we are awed by her legacy of tireless, dignified public service.
“Elsewhere in his statement, Obama recounted the lengthy tenure of Queen Elizabeth, which began when she was just 25 years old and included a stint on active military duty during World War II.
“From the day of her coronation 70 years ago—the first one ever televised—to this very moment, as countless tributes are being posted online in her honour, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has captivated the world,” Obama wrote. “Today, Michelle and I join so many others who are celebrating her life and mourning her passing.”
As Obama noted, Her Majesty “worked with 15 Prime Ministers and countless foreign heads of state.”
“She listened deeply, thought strategically, and was responsible for considerable diplomatic achievements,” Obama wrote. “And yet, she wore her lofty titles with a light touch—as willing to act in a comic sketch for the London Olympics as she was to record steadying messages for the people of the UK during the COVID-19 lock downs.”
Obama has spoken warmly of the Queen before, reflecting on his first meeting with the Queen in a recent BBC special broadcast during Trooping the Colour.
“When you’re president of the United States, you meet a lot of remarkable people,” he said. “And you try under all circumstances to maintain composure. But that’s harder than you think when you’re visiting Her Majesty.”
As Obama noted, he and the former first lady didn’t quite know what to expect ahead of the meeting.
He continued: “We weren’t sure what to expect on our first trip to Buckingham. But we shouldn’t have been worried. Her Majesty put us at east with her grace and generosity. So much so that I walked away thinking she actually reminded me a little bit of my grandmother.”
In the years since that meeting, Obama said that he and the Queen “formed a special relationship of our own,” a nod to the “special relationship” between the UK and the US.
“Certainly I can say that getting to know her was one of the great privileges of my years in office,” Obama added.
In closing those remarks, Obama offered a message to the Queen: “Your Majesty, it would be an understatement to say the world has changed a bit in the seven decades since you first came to power. But your character never has.”
“Your life has been a gift — not just to the United Kingdom, but to the world. And it is with gratitude for your leadership and the kindness that you’ve shown me and my family that I say, may the light of your crown continue to reign supreme.” (People)