How A Man's First-Ever Tweet, About Obama's Respect, Proved More Popular Than President Trump's Bluster

Gary Lee's screen name is @whoisgarylee. Maybe because, well, who is Gary Lee? Google him, and not much comes up. He had never tweeted before Saturday, when Trump's words inspired him to begin.

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How A Man's First-Ever Tweet, About Obama's Respect, Proved More Popular Than President Trump's Bluster

Gary Lee once worked in the White House, as an assistant staff secretary under President Barack Obama.


Donald Trump sent the 2,559th tweet of his presidency on Saturday. Like many before, it was combative and vague and quite popular.

"So much Fake News is being reported," Trump wrote - perhaps referring to reports that he had complained of immigrants from "shithole countries," or perhaps rebutting the previous night's NBC News report that he once called a career intelligence analyst a "pretty Korean lady."

The 2,559th tweet did reasonably well, by Trump's standards. More than 124,000 people "liked" it. Trump is not the most popular president, according to opinion polls, but he is an extraordinary tweeter. He doesn't call himself @realDonaldTrump for nothing.

Gary Lee's screen name, on the other hand, is @whoisgarylee. Maybe because, well, who is Gary Lee? Google him, and not much comes up. He had never tweeted before Saturday, when Trump's words inspired him to begin.

"1. I've never tweeted before but today felt like a good day to start."

Lee once worked in the White House, too, as an assistant staff secretary under President Barack Obama. But that was hardly a high-profile position. Assistant staff secretaries don't often make the news.

"Who am I, other than just some Korean American kid from Albuquerque, New Mexico?" Lee used to think to himself, he once said in a 2011 interview with his alma mater, the University of Southern California. It only appeared on the school's website, so you might have missed it at the time.

But the gratification of managing email systems on a presidential campaign, or saying, "This is the White House," into a phone after Obama's Inauguration Day, changed the way Lee thought of himself and his place in history, he told the school.

His tweets continued:

"2. President Trump made a lot of upsetting remarks this week including this one. 'Where are you from?' is a question that many Asian Americans dread."

Lee once wrote: "My Korean-born-and-raised parents both came to America as young adults, knowing a bare minimum of English, having a handful of family to rely on, and coping with a true culture shock. One generation later, their son had a bachelor's degree in political science and was working for the president."

And even if not many outside the White House knew who Lee was when he left the staff in 2011, Obama did.

His tweets continued:

"3. This struck a chord with me not only bc I'm Korean-American, but also bc I worked at the White House, for President Obama. I left the WH in 2011 for a Fulbright scholarship in Korea. President Obama knew I was leaving to learn more about the culture and language of my parents.

"4. On my last day, I went into the Oval Office and POTUS greeted me by saying, "안녕하세요". Hello, in Korean. I'm lucky bc @PeteSouza captured that exact moment."

As he remembered these things on Saturday, and read about Trump's words, Lee decided to tell his story again. Not to the university this time, but to anyone who cared to hear. So he logged into @whoisgarylee and wrote his first-ever tweet, then his second and third, and so on.

"8. After my departure photo with POTUS, I left the Oval Office in a daze and ran into @kalpenn in the West Wing lobby. I recounted the interaction with the president and he started tearing up. 'Why are you crying?' I asked.

"9. He replied, '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.' I started crying too.

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

"13. What a beautiful, incredible nation of immigrants we are."

Lee had said all this before. He told his old university how much Obama's "안녕하세요" had meant to him in 2011, shortly after he left the White House to study in his parents' homeland. "It says a lot about the man himself," Lee had said, "but it also says how far we've come."

Lee still believes in that optimism, he wrote Saturday - on the same weekend President Trump issued his 2,559th tweet, and his 2,560th, and more besides that, including:

"I, as President, want people coming into our Country who are going to help us become strong and great again, people coming in through a system based on MERIT. No more Lotteries! #AMERICA FIRST"

But none of them were quite as popular as Lee's first tweet, introducing a thread about a different president's respect for other cultures, which was "liked" by 142,000 people and counting. And every one of those people now knows who Gary Lee is.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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