Dear President Trump,
By now you are no doubt getting to work in earnest. I suppose that I never dreamed that you would one day be our nation’s leader and I sometimes wonder if deep down inside you are just as surprised by your new title as I am. Anyway, many months ago I also wrote a letter to my friend, Hillary Clinton, giving her some well intentioned advice for her campaign. I feel comfortable calling her my friend even though I have never actually met her because she sent me a very nice letter in which she addressed me as her “dear friend.” She even sent me a bumper sticker which I saved in a special place with my treasured George McGovern buttons, so naturally I truly wanted to help her in her quest for the presidency. Sadly she had other advisors and didn’t take my well intentioned ideas seriously. Now I am offering you some unsolicited comments in the hopes that you will find a new voice that will speak to all of us as you guide our country.
I must be transparent in admitting to you that I did not vote for you. In fact, I wrote a number of blogs, tweets and Facebook posts in opposition to your candidacy. Nonetheless I am an imminently practical person and I understand all too well that if your term as president is unsuccessful we will all suffer. Since you claim to only be concerned about the well being of our nation and not your own personal gain herewith are some ideas that I think might help you to transition into your role and become the patriot that you say you are.
First and foremost you must rise to the seriousness and nobility of your new job with the example of our very first president, George Washington, in mind. That means that you must remember that you are here to serve the people of the United States of America. It is not about you, it is about us. Nothing else matters but upholding the oath that you made on Friday. Keep those thirty five words in a place where you can see them at all times. Think about what they mean anytime that you choose to speak or make a decision. Focus on the real issues and not the pettiness. Don’t allow yourself to go off on meaningless tangents that bait you into sounding small and selfish. So what if members of media post photographs claiming to show that the crowd for your inauguration was smaller than that of your predecessor. Nobody really cares about such things. Learn to ignore the ridiculous and definitely do not make yourself appear to be a bad sport by twisting the truth into a contortion of silly explanations. Let it go. Learn to smile and say, “It was a beautiful day that I truly enjoyed and I am excited about working for the American people. That is all that matters to me.”
The most beautiful and reassuring moment of inauguration day came when your beautiful wife and Mrs. Obama stood on the steps of the White House holding hands. That is the image that you should continue to display, one of generosity and reconciliation. The campaign is over. It is no longer about winning, it is about rolling up your sleeves and working with every citizen of this country, not just those who are your adoring fans. You have the opportunity to win over dubious souls like me but it won’t happen if you continue to be aggressive and petulant. Be willing to genuinely listen even to your detractors. Note to yourself that you missed an amazing opportunity to demonstrate your leadership when you neglected to compliment the women who marched around the world on Saturday. You might have reveled in the sight of democracy at work and reassured them that you have every intention of working for and with them. How great would it have been if you or your wife or one of your daughters had gone to speak with them and learn what was in their hearts. Taking that first step toward understanding one another would have been extraordinarily powerful and you missed it. Instead you chose instead to insult the CIA on the day of the march when you visited their home base. That is such bad form. We no longer need to hear what you think is wrong with America. We need to see you fixing the problems by working with the agencies and people that are experiencing difficulties. Start by noting what they are doing right and then asking them how you can help them fix what is wrong.
You have surrounded yourself with mostly incredibly loyal individuals who echo your beliefs. That is a natural thing to do but I would suggest that you also include people who are unafraid to tell you when they believe that you are making a mistake. You will fail if you live in a bubble of agreeable drones. You need to have a strong confidante who will face you with facts and not simply concur when it is patently obvious that you are wrong. Your press secretary really made of fool of you and himself this weekend when he argued about the size of the crowd at your inauguration. It was a really bad start to your administration. Find someone right now who will help you to turn things around. Don’t begin your tenure with a situation that is far too similar to the storytelling about a video causing a spontaneous attack in Benghazi. The people who voted for you surely expect better. Try to remember that the truth will set you free and as long as you are always honest you never have to worry about being caught in a lie. The American people will admire you more if you are willing to demonstrate enough humility to admit to missteps and show a genuine intent to set things right.
Quit complaining about the press. Nobody likes a whiner. Do what you need to do to keep our country moving and let the people decide how well you are executing your job. We are smart enough to determine whether or not our journalists are reporting the facts or editorializing. We don’t need your constant bashing of their efforts. Be better than that. It is unbecoming of the office for you to be so combative. State your case and then let it go, which also means controlling those tendencies that you have to dash off insulting tweets. You need to lock your phone inside your desk and pay more attention to your job and less to those who troll and taunt you.
I can tell that you want people to like you. That is a natural tendency that we all have. The truth is that no matter who you are there will always be detractors. Even Mother Theresa was the subject of crushing critiques. Show that you are genuinely concerned about all of the American people and you will begin to win more hearts. When you are aware of the needs of others and not just your own people will notice. You don’t need to brag and boast, in fact it is an unbecoming trait. Be the kind and charming person that many who know you insist that you are. Let us all see that side of your personality which so far has been missing. In other words quit being so mean spirited. It is off putting and embarrassing. I know that there will be times when you have to be forceful but don’t make a habit of always humiliating anyone who disagrees with you.
Be willing to change course when needed. No idea is so sacred that it should be protected even when it is shown to be flawed. That even goes for your initial selections of individuals for your cabinet. It doesn’t take a great deal of observation to see for example that Betsy Devos is not suited to be the Secretary of Education. She has no real life experience in classrooms and her ideas are far too simplistic for the complexities of the problems that she will face. Surely there are people who are far better suited for the job. Thank Ms. Devos for her willingness to help but find someone who has the gravitas to actually make a difference. God knows that we need to shore up our educational systems. After forty years of working directly with children and teachers I know all too well that there is still much needed work and improvement to be done.
I don’t want to rattle on for too long. You have so much to think about and a letter that is too lengthy will surely be ignored. Once again I wish you the best. I love this country and thank God every single day that I was lucky enough to be born here. Please know that like you I have many ideas about how to keep our nation as great as it has always been. I believe that we have the capacity to be better but that will require all of us to work together with a willingness to consider multiple points of view. Nobody should be exiled from a seat at the table. Please at least consider some of my suggestions. They were presented with an earnest desire to help you to achieve the greatness to which you seem to aspire. I would like nothing better than to watch you evolve into a man for all of the people.
Sharron Little Burnett