Recent presidential tradition includes leaving a handwritten letter in the Oval Office for the next man who takes the office. George H.W. Bush did it for Bill Clinton, Clinton did it for George W. Bush and the younger Bush did it for Barack Obama. So when President Donald Trump succeeded Obama on Jan. 20, Obama kept this tradition alive.
Trump has talked about the letter in public before, even once showing it in its envelope, but the letter has never been public until now. CNN exclusively obtained the letter and published it over the weekend.
The letter is 275 words and contains four pieces of advice:
- First, Obama told Trump part of the responsibility of the presidency is to "build more ladders of success for every child and family that's willing to work hard" because most aren't as fortunate as them.
- Then Obama said that it's up to Trump to "sustain the international order" because "American leadership in this world really is indispensable."
- Third, Obama told Trump it's up to him to guard the backbone of American democracy "like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties." Obama said it's the president's responsibility to "leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them."
- Last, but certainly not least, Obama told Trump to take plenty of time for himself and his family because being president is a very demanding job. "They'll get you through the inevitable rough patches," Obama said.
Congrats, Mr. President
Despite being on the opposite political spectrum, Obama offered Trump congratulations and reminded him of his main responsibility as 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," Obama wrote.
Trump loved the letter so much, according to CNN, that he tried to call Obama after reading it. However, Obama and his family were on their way to California for vacation and couldn't take the call.
The presidents haven't talked directly since Inauguration Day, CNN reported. CNN also reported that Obama's letter was relatively long compared to the other presidential letters. In fact, it's about twice as long.
Read the full letter
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,