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Transition Letters

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President George W. Bush sits at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office to read the transition letter from President William J. Clinton, January 20, 2001.

 

 

The letters that outgoing Presidents wrote to their successors serve as a reminder of the sanctity of the office of the President of the United States. Regardless of party or personal beliefs, each letter exemplifies American democracy. They are evidence of a greater understanding that the President is part of something larger than themselves. They graciously acknowledge that one's duty in office as President has come to an end and that it is time to pass the immense power to someone else, often providing some advice or lessons learned. The letters are handwritten by the outgoing President and left on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office for the incoming President to find. 

In keeping with tradition, below is the letter that outgoing President William J. Clinton wrote to President George W. Bush in 2001 as well as the letter that outgoing President George W. Bush wrote to President Barack Obama in 2009.

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Transition letter from President William J. Clinton to President George W. Bush, dated January 20, 2001.

Dear George,

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 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.

Sincerely, Bill

original - Obama

Transition letter from President George W. Bush to President Barack Obama, dated January 20, 2009. Courtesy The Barack Obama Presidential Library.

Dear Barack,

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 challenges you will face.

There will be tryinging 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,

GW

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Envelope labeled "44" containing the transition letter from President George W. Bush left on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office from President Barack Obama to find, January 20, 2009.

Related Digitized Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests 

2014-0040-F: Drafts of President George W. Bush's First Inaugural Address

2014-0045-F: Drafts of President George W. Bush's Second Inaugural Address

2014-0109-F[1]: Photographs and Contact Sheets Created from the Presidency of George W. Bush, January 20, 2001 - January 31, 2001 and January 19, 2009 - January 20, 2009.

2014-0109-F[2]: Photographs and Contact Sheets Created from the Presidency of George W. Bush, January 20, 2001 - January 31, 2001 and January 19, 2009 - January 20, 2009.

Press Releases

January 20, 2001 - President George W. Bush's Inaugural Address

January 20, 2005 - President Sworn-In To Second Term

National Archives' Resources On Presidential Transitions

NARA's Role in Presidential Transitions (Society of American Archivists)

Moving On: NARA's Role in a Presidential Transition (Society of American Archivists)

Presidential Transitions Frequently Asked Questions

Peaceful Transition of Power in Prologue Magazine

NARA's Role in Presidential Transitions in Prologue Magazine

Moving On: NARA's Role in a Presidential Transition in Prologue Magazine

Escorting a Presidency into History in Prologue Magazine

"The peaceful transition of power and knowledge from one Presidential Administration to another is both a cornerstone and a cyclical event of American democracy."

Archivist of the United States, November 10, 2016

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