WASHINGTON (WPRI) — Tucked away in the presidential transition is a tradition that, if carried out by President Donald Trump, could potentially ease tensions in a politically divided country.
The tradition, according to Providence College Political Science Department Chair Joe Cammarano, involves a handwritten note, which the outgoing president leaves in the center drawer of his desk in the Oval Office for his successor.
It all began with Ronald Reagan, who scribbled a note on stationary paper, leaving it for George H. W. Bush to find when he sat down.
“It was one friend to another saying, ‘Hey, it’ll be OK,'” Cammarano said.
Cammarano said that single act left an impression on Bush, so much so that he followed suit.
Despite suffering a difficult loss to Bill Clinton in 1993, Bush still wrote him a letter.
“I would say George H. W. Bush framed the tone of all the other ones we’ve seen since then,” Cammarano said.
In his note to Clinton, Bush wrote, “When I walked into this office just now, I felt the same sense of wonder and respect I felt four years ago.”
“There will be very tough times,” Bush wrote, following with a very poignant reminder. “You will be our president.”
Clinton went on to leave a note for the younger Bush, who in turn penned a note to Barack Obama. Then, Obama left one for Trump.
“These letters are great because they really express the individual, but also something larger than themselves that carries across through presidents,” Cammarano said.
The letters aren’t instructional or political in nature. Instead, they’re personal.
“It’s sort of a way of saying, ‘We’re the only ones who really know what this is like,'” Cammarano said. “It reminds us that we’re not mortal enemies the way we often think we are.”
It’s unclear whether Trump will leave a note for President-elect Joe Biden, but Cammarano said it would certainly be welcomed in the current political climate.