It is tradition for the outgoing president to leave the incoming president a letter of welcome.
This is what I’d like to think President Obama would say in that letter.
Dear President Trump:
Congratulations and welcome to the White House. I wish you every success as you assume the highest office in our country. I pray that your days in the White House bring you as much joy, honor, and reverence as I have experienced over the past eight years.
To serve as President of the United States of America is a privilege without equal. Although singular in title, this position is most effective when it has the united cooperation and respect of every member of our government.
I’ll let you in on a secret: that doesn’t always happen.
Fraught with profound responsibilities, the execution of this office will keep you up at night. It will challenge your perception of the world. I am speaking from experience, here.
Whatever your intentions are for your presidency and our country, please know that every incoming president sets impossible goals. Dealing with the obstacles that keep you from reaching those goals is very frustrating. And humbling.
Again, I speak from experience.
I offer this advice to you: decide now how you will deal with those roadblocks. Device a plan, draft a personal philosophy, on how you will face those failures. Because trust me, there will be failures. You will make mistakes. How you handle them will form the foundation of your legacy. Take the higher ground, be forthright, and you can be a model of strength and integrity for our country and the next generation. Lash out, point fingers, demean those who don’t agree with you, and you will never accomplish all you want or gain the respect of our great populace.
The pages of history books are littered with the tragic profiles of tyrants and dictators who thought otherwise.
As you make the transition into your new home, remember two things: listen and laugh. Reveal your humanity and you will be handsomely rewarded. Hide behind a wall of secrecy and you will be treated with disdain and mistrust. Also be aware that when you move into the White House, you become a member of the White House staff family. The folks who make this residence feel like a home are incredibly giving people. Acknowledge their birthdays. Ask about their grandchildren. Laugh with them. Listen to their stories. Do that and they will always have your back. Treat them merely as employees and they will only fulfill the basic requirements of their jobs.
It’s no secret that you and I differ on a lot of issues. I think the biggest one is that the job of the President of the United States can be run like a corporation. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a service-oriented job. A labor of the heart and mind. It involves more than good deals or balancing budgets. Being the President of the United States is about compassion, patience, and negotiation. The ability to put yourself in other folks’ shoes.
It is not my intention to preach or level judgment at you. I apologize if it sounds that way. It’s just that I love my country and want to pass its leadership on to someone who also loves it. I believe you must. Which is why I caution you to remember that taking the reins of the country does not mean it is yours to do with as you please.
I know you plan to dismantle much of the work I have accomplished. That is your prerogative. But if your plans offer no constructive alternatives, if they jeopardize this nation’s safety, deny its people their rights, and further divide this country that I love, you will be lost.
I, and many others, will make sure of it.
44th President of the United States
P.S. Getting a pet helps.