Obama's welcome letter to Trump: A few tips on being President

It is traditional for the outgoing president to leave a letter for his successor.  All the bloggers around here at ChicagoNow were invited to imagine what that letter might say. Here's what I picture waiting on the desk in the Oval Office.

Dear Donald:

You and I started out in very different places, but both of us made our way here to this office. Who could dare imagine that such a thing would come true?  As  one of the only guys who knows what this job is really like, I hope you won't mind some advice. Now, we are very different guys, you and me, so don't think I aim to turn you into another version of me. Just consider, please, these few tips.

This job means that you will have power like you've never experienced before. It so far exceeds the power of being the big guy at the head of the corporate table,  or the star of a reality TV show,  that once you recognize it - maybe today with your hand on the Bible - it takes your breath away. You  can do a tremendous amount of good with that power, and also a dreadful amount of bad.

You make clear that money is your forte, and you have promised to run your presidency like a business. Good for you, and good luck with that. But this job is way bigger than profits and the bottom line. What you decide will affect the lives and the prospects of so many people that it ought to keep you up at night.

Supporters rallied to you with the hope that you will improve their lives. I hope you will think about their lives when you are tempted to use that power to tamper with the things that are keeping them afloat, without knowing yet how to replace them. People who are desperate for their lives to improve do not tolerate uncertainty well.

I know you like to stay up late at night. You can always get a snack - just call down and ask for it. For those quiet hours, maybe it would be a good idea to get a few snapshots of those folks to prop up in front of you while you tweet, so that you will see their expectant faces. You got them to trust you. Now is your time to live up to that trust. You do have a way of making people nervous, and I suspect you like it that way. It is also clear that, given your fox-in-the-hen-house Cabinet picks, you enjoy a good surprise. But I know this job, and it is not one where you get a lot of mileage out of keeping people off balance.

I hope you grow into the the job. I certainly did. And one more thing, about the art of the deal, an often-mentioned strength of yours, I think you will find that while the business deals you are familiar with  are about common goals - profit and positioning - the ones you will need to make here are more complex. Rogue countries, politicos, fringe groups will be angling for you to use some of that power to further their agendas, and some of them won't care who gets hurt in the process. You are going to need to be the one who cares.

Michelle and I and the girls have moved out, and we arranged for a thorough cleaning so you all can start fresh. And just so you know, the people, the owners of the house, allow pets.  It's been a humbling, rich experience to be President. I hope you find it the same.

Your truly,

Barack

 

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