Leadership

Barack Obama left Donald Trump a letter before leaving office. Here's what he said

President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama talk on the East steps of the US Capitol after inauguration ceremonies on January 20, 2017, in Washington, DC.
Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images
President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama talk on the East steps of the US Capitol after inauguration ceremonies on January 20, 2017, in Washington, DC.

On Sunday, CNN exclusively reported on the contents ofa handwritten letter former president Barack Obama addressed to Donald Trump prior to leaving the Oval Office.

In a tradition carried out by at least three prior presidents, CNN reports, Obama wrote a letter to Trump, reflecting on his eight years as president and detailing four points of advice.

Obama congratulated the newly elected President Trump on his new job and reminded him that "millions have placed their hopes" in him.

Trump himself called the note a "beautiful letter" during a press conference two days after receiving it. It was just over twice as long as those written by three previous presidents' letters, according to an analysis by CNBC. (We counted! See this doc.)

"This is a unique office, without a clear blueprint for success, so I don't know that any advice from me will be particularly helpful," Obama wrote. "Still, let me offer a few reflections from the past 8 years."

Here are Obama's four points of advice to Trump ahead of his new job.

Build more ladders of success

In his first point, Obama says that, unlike himself and Trump, not everyone has been blessed with good fortune.

"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," Obama writes.

That resonated with core policy goals articulated by the former Illinois U.S. senator. Obama spent much of his tenure emphasizing the creation of more economic opportunities for the middle class.

Sustain the international order

Obama stated that American wealth and safety depend on maintaining the "international order that's expanded steadily since the end of the Cold War."

He added: "American leadership in this world really is indispensable."

Obama also wrote that that it's up to the American president to maintain U.S. leadership "through action and example."

Leave the 'instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them'

Obama notes that, as president, Trump became a guardian of protecting basic and constitutional rights upon which the U.S. prides itself. Examples Obama gave included the rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties.

"We are just temporary occupants of this office," Obama reminds Trump. "Regardless of the push and pull of daily politics, it's up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them."

Take time for friends and family

About three years into his first term, Obama told Oprah Winfrey that he couldn't have accomplished anything up until the point without his wife, Michelle Obama. The first lady helped keep him sane, balanced and able to deal with pressure, he said.

In his letter to Trump, Obama reminded the current president that family is key.

"Take time, in the rush of events and responsibilities, for friends and family," Obama writes. "They'll get you through the inevitable rough patches."

Here is the full text of his letter to Trump:

"Dear Mr. President -

Congratulations on a remarkable run. Millions have placed their hopes in you, and all of us, regardless of party, should hope for expanded prosperity and security during your tenure.

This is a unique office, without a clear blueprint for success, so I don't know that any advice from me will be particularly helpful. Still, let me offer a few reflections from the past 8 years.

First, we've both been blessed, in different ways, with great good fortune. Not everyone is so lucky. 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.

Second, American leadership in this world really is indispensable. It's up to us, through action and example, 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.

Third, we are just temporary occupants of this office. That makes us guardians of those democratic institutions and traditions -- like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties -- that our forebears fought and bled for. Regardless of the push and pull of daily politics, it's up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.

And finally, take time, in the rush of events and responsibilities, for friends and family. They'll get you through the inevitable rough patches.

Michelle and I wish you and Melania the very best as you embark on this great adventure, and know that we stand ready to help in any ways which we can.

Good luck and Godspeed,

BO"

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