In a gesture that is rare in these technological times, former President Barack Obama actually penned a handwritten letter to congratulate a woman he freed from multiple life sentences after she made the dean’s list in college.
Obama granted Danielle Metz clemency just before he left office in January 2017. Metz had been sentenced to three life sentences, plus another 20 years, for her role in her husband’s major cocaine trafficking enterprise, according to CNN.
Obama decided to free Metz and it has paid handsome dividends. She completed her freshman year at Southern University with a 3.75-grade point average and made the dean’s list.
Excited and extremely grateful to the former president, she told The Hechinger Report, a publication that reports on educational innovation inequality, that she wishes she could thank Obama personally.
“You don’t know what you did for me. I’m finally coming into my own. I made the honor roll,” Metz said, according to The Hechinger Report.
When Metz was 26, she was a high school dropout and, according to NOLA.com, her husband’s “right-hand woman” in constructing a massive national drug operation when she was given the multiple life sentences.
After Obama freed Metz after 22 years in prison — as one of the hundreds he let out through commutations or pardons in 2017 — Metz did not waste anymore precious moments of her life. She immediately returned to New Orleans, got her GED and enrolled as a 50-year-old freshman at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which is 72 miles northwest of New Orleans.
According to CBS News, Metz had unwisely thought that college was only for “White people and the Huxtables,” she said, referencing the fictional characters in the iconic “Cosby Show.” But here she is now, living a life she never thought possible and working toward her bachelor’s degree. And she wanted to speak with Obama personally about it.
But Obama beat her to the punch. Instead of sending an impersonal email or public statement, Obama wrote a letter to Metz the old-fashioned way.
Exciting coda to my @USATODAY / @hechingerreport story about a New Orleans woman going to college after spending half her life in prison: @BarackObama sent her a letter this week! pic.twitter.com/1brbEgaymW
— Casey Parks (@caseyparks) July 11, 2019
“I am so proud of you, and am confident that your example will have a positive impact for others who are looking for a second chance,” Obama wrote, according to a copy of the letter published by USA Today. “Tell your children I say hello, and know that I’m rooting for all of you.”
Turns out, Metz didn’t need to tell Obama of her changed life and good grades. Obama was already watching.