What follows is the letter I would have left in the Oval Office for Donald Trump if I were President Obama.
As I write these words, I am president of the United States. As you read them, you are. I hope the gravity and responsibility of the office is clear.
In the eight years that I occupied this office, I encountered challenges, obstacles, and tragedies that no one could have predicted. Although things didn’t always go as I planned, I adapted and learned. I grew as a leader, and as a person. As I leave this office, I’m leaving a better man than when I arrived.
I hope the same is true for you.
You’ll discover rather quickly that governing is vastly different than campaigning. It’s one thing to promise something in a speech when there’s no one to oppose you. It’s quite another to overcome sustained, serious opposition and actually deliver on that promise.
I came into this office bolstered by two ideas: hope and change. Our system is inherently messy and slow-moving. But we still delivered change; not for the sake of change, but to improve the lives of our citizens, and to improve the state of our nation. And even though I’m leaving with work left to do, we never lost hope.
This office, this responsibility, is now yours. And my fervent wish is that this nation can bolster you with those two ideas: hope and change.
I hope that you’ll govern with all of this country’s people in mind. I hope that you’ll realize there is real suffering, and that the people who endure such suffering will not find relief in blame-shifting or scapegoating.
I hope that you’ll listen to the voices of people who are different from you. I hope you appreciate the diversity of this country, and realize that the spectrum of experiences, beliefs, and values inherent in such diversity are not something that should be marginalized, but embraced.
I hope that you’ll see that all people of this nation, regardless of sex, race, creed, and religion, contribute with their minds, their intellect, and their spirit, and that they are more valuable when they’re heard, and not just seen.
I hope that you’ll hear the painful echoes from the victims of violence in this nation’s past, and understand that calls for violence damage the fabric of decency necessary for our prosperity.
I hope that you’ll understand that although we are the mightiest nation in history, we only benefit from that might when we’re also compassionate, fair, and just. I hope that you’ll seek advice from our military leaders past and present, but never forget that in our nation, civilians lead.
I hope that you’ll remember that the selfless service you have undertaken is for the good of the country. I hope that you’ll navigate each day with the understanding that this office is the most important job you’ll ever have.
I hope that you’ll realize that in our toughest days this country will look to you.
If you fulfill the hope that I have for you, then the change necessary for this country’s prosperity will follow.
Wisdom can affect great transformation. I hope you have that experience.
But most of all, I hope that you remember the irrefutable words spoken by Dr. King: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Follow that arc. Don’t fight it.
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