Being a gracious politician has always been difficult, but particularly so in this election cycle, where no topic, email, or bro-out with Billy Bush is off limits. The animosity between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has gotten so bad that at the third and final presidential debate on Oct. 19, they didn’t even shake hands. Even ultimate fighters shake hands, and they actually beat each other up.
But civility in politics is an option, one best illustrated by a letter George H.W. Bush left for Bill Clinton when the latter was assuming the presidency in 1993. “You will be our president when you read this note,” Bush wrote. “I wish you well.”
Now, just two weeks shy of the election, Quartz has obtained an advance draft of President Obama’s hand-off letter to an incoming Donald Trump. Here it is in full.
THE WHITE HOUSE
January 20, 2017
If you’re reading this, you’ve accepted the results of the election. I’m heartened by this obviously sincere last-minute embrace of the democratic process. You did it. Congrats. Here we are.
When I walked into this office eight years ago, I was struck by the import of this role—the humility, respect, and patience it takes to lead the American people. The honor it is to serve. You may be struck by all those things as well—or by how much smaller the White House is than your various real estate properties. How much less baroque. How much less gold. I should warn you that there’s not much marble. Also far fewer portraits of you. But the kitchen does make a decent taco bowl.
I wish you great happiness here. I often felt the loneliness described by presidents past, the weight of the world on my shoulders and an army of critics at my back. But of course I didn’t have your experience with unpopularity. Your experience with disapproval from African-Americans, from women you’ve harassed, from most women in general, from your former employees, from vendors who have worked with you, from students at your university, and from Rosie O’Donnell. You may have no political experience, but when it comes to having your legitimacy questioned, your qualifications go above and beyond.
There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticisms you may not think are fair. People may question where you were born, or call you the most ignorant president in history, or the worst. They may suggest you founded ISIL, or imply that you’re involved in domestic terrorism. They might say that your opponents are much smarter and tougher than you. They may even exploit political differences within your own family. The only advice I can offer is, don’t let the critics get to you. Also stop writing your own tweets.
Against all odds, logic, or common sense, you will be our president when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well. I hope Chris Christie finds Bo’s doggy bed comfortable. Your success is our country’s success. Your failure is our national downfall.