Letter to successors – surprisingly, Trump remained true to one tradition
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It has become the custom for the US president to leave a small written note on his last day in office for his successor. Surprisingly, Trump, who has otherwise broken with traditions and democratic customs, does so too.
ZDonald Trump has preserved at least one tradition in the handover of office from one US president to the next: he left a personal note on the desk of the Oval Office for his successor, Joe Biden. It was a “very benevolent letter,” commented Biden on Wednesday in the Oval Office after he was sworn in. However, he does not want to comment on the content and speak to Trump first, said the new head of state.
Since Ronald Reagan in 1989, it has become common for the outgoing president to leave a brief personal letter to his successor. In the case of Trump, many had assumed that he would forego it after he had already announced that he would not be swearing in his successor.
Many traditions in the White House have something grave from the start – but this one has rather ironic beginnings. When Reagan left office in 1989, he picked up a letterhead with caricatures by Sandra Bonyton under the slogan “Don’t Let the Turkeys Depress You” and wrote a note for his successor, George HW Bush.
The drawings showed a horde of turkeys climbing a proud elephant, the heraldic animal of the Republicans, the Reagan and Bush parties. Bush might feel the need to use the template every now and then, wrote Reagan and regretted the end of lunch together every Thursday with his previous Vice Bush.
Four years later, Bush had to clear his desk for Bill Clinton, Democrat. On January 20, he swallowed his bitterness and left Clinton a handwritten letter on his desk that is still considered an example of a dignified departure.
“As I walked into this office, I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago,” wrote Bush on the official White House stationery. Clinton will do the same. There will be very hard times and the criticism that Clinton will then be able to find unfair. “Don’t let the critics discourage you or put you off course,” wrote Bush. And because Clinton’s success in office is now also the success of the whole country, he’ll keep his fingers crossed for him and wish him good luck.
Clinton’s wife, Hillary, later admitted that after reading it briefly, tears came to her. The historian Mark Updegrove ruled that Bush showed what the office of president is all about, namely to think of the country first.
In early 2001, Clinton passed the presidency on to Bush’s son, George W. And he too wrote a letter. The presidential burden is heavy, but it is also often exaggerated, he wrote. “The pure joy of doing what you have recognized to be right is indescribable.”
Eight years later, the younger Bush wrote a few encouragements to his successor, Barack Obama. “Critics will rage. Your “friends” will let you down, but whatever happens, you will be inspired by the nature and compassion of the people you lead, ”said George W. Bush. His adult twin daughters Jenna and Barbara advised Obama’s adolescent children Malia and Sasha in a separate letter to slide down the railing of the stairs to the solarium.
Obama reminded his successor Trump in 2017 that the presidency is only granted for a limited period. “This makes us guardians of such democratic institutions and traditions as the rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil rights, for which our ancestors fought and bled,” wrote Obama. “It is up to us to leave these instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.”