On Inauguration Day 2017, Barack Obama left a handwritten letter for Donald Trump in the Oval Office. In it, he calls on the new president to leave democratic institutions and traditions in the strong, stable state he found them in.
In the nearly 300-word letter, obtained by CNN, Obama offers some apt reflections of his 8 years in office. After warmly congratulating Trump on his win, Obama reminds Trump of the inequalities that persist in American society, how crucial US leadership is across the world, and the importance of maintaining the tenets of democracy. He then finally tells Trump to make sure he makes time for family and friends.
The letter highlights Obama’s resolve to make Trump understand the responsibilities he would be assuming and burden he would be carrying as the leader of the free world. Obama is not unique in writing a letter for his successor; it’s a tradition set by past presidents. Obama had received his own handwritten letter from George W. Bush on the day of his inauguration.
Here is the letter from Obama 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,