'Good luck and Godspeed': Read Obama's Oval Office letter to Trump

Before leaving the White House in January, President Barack Obama left President Trump a handwritten letter congratulating his successor and offering “a few reflections” from his eight years in the Oval Office.

“Dear Mr. President,” Obama wrote in the letter, the contents of which were obtained by CNN and published on Sunday. “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,” Obama continued. “Still, let me offer a few reflections from the past 8 years.”

Obama relayed four to Trump:

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.

Obama closed the 275-word letter by extending best wishes from the outgoing first family:

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,


In writing the note, Obama was carrying on a baton-passing tradition started by previous presidents. In 1993, President George H. W. Bush left incoming President Bill Clinton a note wishing him success; Clinton then left one for President George W. Bush eight years later; and Bush left Obama a heartfelt letter before leaving office in 2009.

“There will be trying moments. The critics will rage. Your ‘friends’ will disappoint you,�� Bush wrote. “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.”

On Jan. 22 during a swearing-on ceremony for senior staff, Trump showed the envelope left for him by Obama.

“I just went to the Oval Office and found this beautiful letter from President Obama,” Trump said. “It was really very nice of him to do that. And we will cherish that. We will keep that. And we won’t even tell the press what’s in that letter.”

But according to CNN, Trump has frequently shown the letter to his White House visitors. And CNN said it “obtained a copy from someone Trump showed it to.”

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