Read the letter Barack Obama left for Donald Trump at the White House
On 20 January, during the waning moments of Barack Obama’s presidency, he wrote a letter to incoming President Donald Trump.
It has been customary for outgoing Oval Office occupants to leave advice for their successors and Mr Obama’s letter offered four observations on his eight years at the helm.
These letters are usually not made public until later in a presidency, but eight months into Mr Trump’s term, the public can now read one of the first things he likely read upon entering the White House.
Mr Trump has reportedly been showing the letter to visitors and said shortly after taking office that it was “long. It was complex. It was thoughtful.”
This is the last direct correspondence between the two men that we are aware of, according to CNN which obtained a copy.
Mr Obama’s letter, written in longhand and left in the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, is 275 words long.
After the contentious 2016 election during which Mr Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama spent several months questioning Mr Trump’s ability to be the so-called leader of the free world, Mr Obama wrote: “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 eight years.”
Mr Obama, on the campaign trail, blasted Mr Trump for his hateful rhetoric and fomenting xenophobia at various points, but in his letter he wrote that both men are “blessed” and that “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.”
He reminds Mr Trump that US leadership in the global sense is “indispensable”.
Perhaps realising Mr Trump’s propensity to get mired in what his critics characterise as petty arguments on Twitter, Mr Obama reminded him that “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.”
Mr Obama received a similar letter from President George W. Bush in 2009. It read: “There will be trying moments. The critics will rage. Your ‘friends’ will disappoint you...But, you will have an Almighty God to comfort you, a family who loves you, and a country that is pulling for you, including me.”
Here is the letter, in full:
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,
Independent News Service