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OpinionColumnistsMichael Dobie

Parting words from Barack Obama

In this photo taken Nov. 10, 2016, President

In this photo taken Nov. 10, 2016, President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Credit: AP

Dear Donald,

Congratulations on your inauguration. I’m writing this earlier; I hope it went well. I hope no one lip-synced.

I’m writing you because it’s tradition; every president since Reagan has left a letter for his successor. You’re in the Oval Office now. Now it’s real. Don’t be worried in the quiet moments when you’re all alone and you feel the ghosts. They’re all still here. Me, too. Lean on us. I’ve got busts and paintings of Lincoln, Washington and Dr. King hanging around. You might want others, but I hope you’ll use them as guideposts over the next four years.

You’re sitting at the desk, right? It’s called the Resolute desk. I won’t go into its history now, but you can read up on it. Actually, you can read up on a lot of stuff. Please. But I loved the desk. It reminded me of what I had to be every day.

People will say things you don’t like. They already are. I know how it is. Here’s my advice: Let it go. You can’t walk down every alley. There are too many important things coming at you every day. And you’re too big now to do that. You’re the president. Don’t punch downward.

And be humble. You’re going to be wrong sometimes and you won’t always win, that’s just the way it is. I don’t like to admit it, but I got a few things wrong, as you and others remind me. You’ll be reminded, too. Don’t take it personally, even if the criticism gets personal. That’s also part of the job. I don’t know what to tell you about Congress. I’m afraid they might not end up liking you any better than they liked me. And I know how it feels to have people question your legitimacy. We’re not so different, are we?

Don’t think any part of this is easy. It’s not. I found that out the hard way. When you want to lash out, take your time. Put Twitter on hold. Think things through.

Remember, this is not about you. It’s not that kind of job. It’s public service and now you serve the people, all the people. Try your best to do that. Empathy is important. So is sleep. I would advise you to keep your family close, but I can see you’re already doing that.

I’m leaving you one of my pens. It’s in the drawer. I suspect you’ll want to use it soon. I hope you make the ink last a while. Don’t forget to pardon the turkeys.

Good luck,


Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.