Updated: January 22, 2021 10:39:23 am
As US President Donald Trump leaves the Oval Office at the White House on Inauguration Day, a 32-year-old tradition by outgoing presidents is in peril this year. Since at least 1989, incoming US presidents have been greeted by a letter, often a handwritten note from their predecessor. Now, four letters of the erstwhile American presidents are doing rounds online, leaving many confused if Trump will give this ritual a miss.
Trump has refused to accept the results of 2020 November’s election and vowed not to attend Joe Biden’s inauguration January 20. That makes it doubtful if Trump will leave behind any handwritten, friendly advice for Biden, where departing presidents wished the new POTUS luck.
The friendly notes of previous administrators often offer a glimpse into the mindset of each president and are seen as a poignant symbolism that has historical significance, creating a great bond moving beyond party lines.
On this day in letters. pic.twitter.com/ypCi53zR3s
— Letters of Note (@LettersOfNote) January 20, 2021
In his letter to the Trump, Barack Obama referred to him as ‘Mr President’, deviating from the usual tradition of referring the new leader with his first name, something, many dubbed as a ‘great sign of respect’.
“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,” Obama wrote, adding three broader points before wishing him “Goodluck and Godspeed.”
In his letter to Obama, Bush wrote: “You have just begun a fantastic chapter in your life,” adding how only very few have the honor of knowing the responsibility that this office holds.
“There will be trying moments. The critics will rage. Your “friends” will disappoint you. But, you will have an Almighty God to comfort you, a family who loves you, and a country that is pulling for you, including me,” the handwritten letter added.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 19, 2017
In 2001, Bill Clinton had written a similar to George W. Bush. “The burdens you now shoulder are great but often exaggerated. The sheer joy of doing what you believe is right is inexpressible,” he wrote in his letter.
“I am rooting hard for you,” George H.W. Bush had wrote to incoming president Bill Clinton, following Reagan’s lead even though Bush lost to Clinton in the bitter 1992 election.
Hillary Clinton, the former first lady shared it later saying it moved her to tears.
According to Associated Press, the tradition was started by President Ronald Reagan in January 1989. Reagan left a note for his successor, George H.W. Bush, on a pad emblazoned with a cartoon by humourist Sandra Boynton under the phrase, “Don’t Let the Turkeys Get You Down.” It featured a collection of turkeys scaling a prone elephant, the symbol of both men’s Republican Party.
— Bush Library (@Bush41Library) October 21, 2016
As the letters dominated conversation online, many were moved by the sentiments of all the presidents, and said it highlights the solemnity of presidential traditions. Although, many were doubtful that Trump would uphold this tradition.
How beautiful are these letters. https://t.co/GutpaY4sxF
— Memphis Tom /// (@memphis_tom) January 20, 2021
Sheer joy to read. https://t.co/9U0yZzbm7Z
— Saurabh Kadam (@Kadam26Kadam) January 20, 2021
How to be gracious in 4 letters. I wonder if there’ll be a 5th? https://t.co/57DGvAaNLc
— Bad Is The New Good (@GrocerJackUK) January 20, 2021
Will there be a similar Letter of Note from the out-going President? Future archivists will ask that question. https://t.co/8ttOUNsDQr
— Binayak Sen (@binayak_sen) January 20, 2021
I wonder what today’s letter will be, and what colour crayon will be used… https://t.co/DyRUJe0o0N
— Woodz 💙 (@woodzmeister) January 20, 2021
It’s also notable the difference in the greetings. Up until the final letter the salutation is the first name. Obama chose to refer to Trump as “Mr. President”. A sign of respect, of course, but less warm.
Trump probably saw it as an “acknowledgment” of his “Superiority”
— Wonko The Sane (@sparetomato) January 20, 2021
Fascinating and gracious. Pretty sure there won’t be one today…or it’ll be written in 140 characters. In crayon.
— jodi DeLong (@bloomingwriter) January 20, 2021
Beautiful and inspiring
— Stephen Cameron (@cameronian22) January 20, 2021
Nothing that Trump has ever exhibited.
— Gregory Sewell (@gregvsewell) January 20, 2021
Trump has announced that he will not attend the inauguration of his successor as he left from the White House for his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Trump, in a pre-recorded video message released by the White House on Tuesday, said to serve as the President has been an honour beyond description. Trump in his farewell speech indicated that he might be out of the White House, but he will continue to have an active public life. He also asserted that he was “especially proud to be the first President in decades who has started no new wars”.
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