“This is a unique office, without a clear blueprint for success.”
There was a lot of chatter around Barack Obama’s welcome letter for Donald Trump, written and left inside the Resolute desk for the incoming 45th president to find after his January inauguration. Obama kept the contents of that letter a secret, and it stayed that way until now.
Trump has reportedly treated the letter as a sort of trophy, showing it off to White House visitors. That’s how CNN got the text of the letter; one of those White House visitors shared it with the cable network.
Obama’s message struck a congratulatory tone, with the former president appealing to Trump’s ego as he dispensed four pieces of advice.
“First, we’ve both been blessed, in different ways, with great good fortune. Not everyone is so lucky,” Obama wrote. “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.”
The next piece of advice emphasized America’s role as a global leader. Obama encouraged Trump 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,” calling the country’s leadership role “indispensable.”
Obama then reminded Trump that his term is temporary. The president is meant to safeguard our “democratic institutions and traditions,” he said, citing the rule of law, the separation of powers, equal protections for all, and civil liberties.
“Regardless of the push and pull of daily politics,” Obama wrote, “it’s up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.”
The final piece of advice? Don’t forget about family. “They’ll get you through the inevitable rough patches,” Obama wrote.
Now, how much of that advice has Trump actually followed? Well, let’s see: he chose the controversial Betsy DeVos as his Secretary of Education, moves such as the Paris Agreement withdrawal point to an increasingly isolationist view of the world, and his antagonism toward the press and military transgender ban (among other things) strangle our country’s democratic ideals.
The only one it’s difficult to speak to is Obama’s advice regarding family. Trump’s publicly awkward relationship with wife Melania is well-documented, as is his stilted stilted defense of son Donald Trump Jr. following revelations regarding a problematic pre-election meeting at Trump Tower.
On the other hand, the senior Trump is known to lean on daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner — both of whom work at the White House in advisory roles — for insight on various matters.
All that said, it still feels like Trump looked at what Obama suggested and then set out to do exactly the opposite — just like what he’s done (and is still doing) to his predecessor’s legacy in all sorts of ways since taking office in January.