Back in 2012, President Obama paid tribute to Toni Morrison in the form of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The incident was clearly moving and important for both of them and it was hard not to be moved watching the ceremony.
This week we heard the sad news that Toni Morrison has died, aged 88 and leading the tributes again is Barack Obama, who honoured the groundbreaking author in true presidential style.
Those who follow Obama’s Facebook page may have already seen the tribute, if not then we’ve embedded it below for you to enjoy the former president’s beautiful words.
Time is no match for Toni Morrison. In her writing, she sometimes toyed with it, warping and creasing it, bending it to her masterful will. In her life’s story, too, she treated time nontraditionally. A child of the Great Migration who’d lifted up new, more diverse voices in American literature as an editor, Toni didn’t publish her first novel until she was 39 years old. From there followed an ascendant career—a Pulitzer, a Nobel, and so much more—and with it, a fusion of the African American story within the American story. Toni Morrison was a national treasure. Her writing was not just beautiful but meaningful—a challenge to our conscience and a call to greater empathy. She was as good a storyteller, as captivating, in person as she was on the page. And so even as Michelle and I mourn her loss and send our warmest sympathies to her family and friends, we know that her stories—that our stories—will always be with us, and with those who come after, and on and on, for all time.
We’re sure you’ll agree it’s a beautiful and fitting tribute to an author who in her own way, changed the world.