There is a tradition where the outgoing US president leaves a letter for his successor in the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. The contents of the letter are eventually made public—and preserved in a presidential library somewhere. But sometimes that doesn’t happen for a very long time, and the world is left to wonder what it says. Imaginations run wild when the president and the president-elect are not big fans of each other.
So everyone was very curious about what Obama wrote to Trump. A very popular joke that everyone made (and was very proud of making) was that Obama should have left his birth certificate in the desk drawer as one final flip o’ the bird to the man who gained political fame by questioning his birthplace.
CNN just published that letter and, unsurprisingly, Obama was respectful, thoughtful, graceful, and nice.
Dear Mr. President –
Congratulations on a remarkable run. Millions have placed their hopes in you, and all of us, regardless of party, should hope for expanded prosperity and security during your tenure.
This is a unique office, without a clear blueprint for success, so I don’t know that any advice from me will be particularly helpful. Still, let me offer a few reflections from the past 8 years.
First, we’ve both been blessed, in different ways, with great good fortune. Not everyone is so lucky. It’s up to us to do everything we can (to) build more ladders of success for every child and family that’s willing to work hard.
Second, American leadership in this world really is indispensable. It’s up to us, through action and example, to sustain the international order that’s expanded steadily since the end of the Cold War, and upon which our own wealth and safety depend.
Third, we are just temporary occupants of this office. That makes us guardians of those democratic institutions and traditions — like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties — that our forebears fought and bled for. Regardless of the push and pull of daily politics, it’s up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.
And finally, take time, in the rush of events and responsibilities, for friends and family. They’ll get you through the inevitable rough patches.
Michelle and I wish you and Melania the very best as you embark on this great adventure, and know that we stand ready to help in any ways which we can.
Good luck and Godspeed,