President Donald Trump has left a note for his successor, Joe Biden, in the Oval Office, extending a tradition in which the outgoing president expresses hope that the new president will be successful.
“The President left a note for President-elect Biden,” said Judd Deere, Trump’s deputy press secretary. But the contents of the note were not released — usually, the new president will share what the note said.
While Trump chose not to attend Biden’s inauguration, the first to do so since Andrew Johnson 1869, he did keep the 32-year tradition of the notes alive. Trump left the White House early Wednesday morning and after delivering a brief speech to family and supporters at Andrews Air Force Base, departed at 9 a.m. for Palm Beach, Florida.
Often, the notes are slipped into a drawer in the Resolute Desk, a gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880 that was built from the oak timbers of the British Arctic exploration ship HMS Resolute, first put in the Oval Office by President John F. Kennedy.
President Ronald Reagan began the tradition when he left the White House in January 1989 after two terms in office, leaving a note for his successor, George H.W. Bush.
“I opened the top drawer of [what is] my desk now and here was a really lovely, warm note from my predecessor, which I think … said a lot about our own personal friendship … a lot about how I got the chance to be in this job,” UPI reported then. “And so it was emotional and yet it had a very nice, steady feeling to it, that the presidency goes on.”
The top note on the pad had been used by Reagan, who wrote, “Dear George. You’ll have moments when you want to use this particular stationery. Well, go to it.” The pad, by the way, showed a flock of cartoon turkeys trying to pull an elephant to the ground and said, “Don’t let the turkeys get you down.”
But Reagan also left a heartfelt message. “George, I treasure the memories we share and wish you all the very best. You’ll be in my prayers. God bless you and Barbara. I’ll miss our Thursday lunches. — Ron.”
After his loss in 1992, Bush then left Bill Clinton a note:
When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too.
I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described.
There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.
You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.
Your success is now our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.
Good luck —
Clinton then left Bush’ son, George W. Bush, a note in 2001:
Today you embark on the greatest venture, with the greatest honor, that can come to an American citizen.
Like me, you are especially fortunate to lead our country in a time of profound and largely positive change, when old questions, not just about the role of government, but about the very nature of our nation, must be answered anew.
You lead a proud, decent, good people. And from this day you are President of all of us. I salute you and wish you success and much happiness.
The burdens you now shoulder are great but often exaggerated. The sheer joy of doing what you believe is right is inexpressible.
My prayers are with you and your family. Godspeed.
Bush also left a note for Barack Obama in 2009:
Congratulations on becoming our President. You have just begun a fantastic chapter in your life.
Very few have had the honor of knowing the responsibility you now feel. Very few know the excitement of the moment and the challenges you will face.
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. No matter what comes, you will be inspired by the character and compassion of the people you now lead.
God bless you. Sincerely,
And four years ago, Obama left a note for 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,