Lunch, letters, and words of advice: 6 touching ways outgoing presidents welcomed their successors
- Outgoing presidents have welcomed their successors into office through letters and other traditions.
- Donald Trump will be the first US president since 1869 not to attend his successor's inauguration.
- Trump has written a welcome letter containing advice for Biden, CNN reported.
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There are many traditions following Election Day and leading up to the inauguration that allow an outgoing US president to welcome the successor into office.
US presidents throughout history have shown their support for the president-elect by attending the inauguration ceremony, enjoying lunch together before departing for the US Capitol, and leaving a letter of advice for the incoming president in the Oval Office, among other traditions.
Here are six ways outgoing presidents welcomed their successors.
US presidents have traditionally invited the president-elect to the White House before the inauguration.
In addition to providing the President-elect with daily briefings and national security intel, outgoing presidents have traditionally invited their successors to the White House to meet prior to Inauguration Day.
In 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower met with President-elect John F. Kennedy for the first time at the White House, as seen in the picture above.
Former presidents have also shown their support by attending the inauguration of the incoming president.
Every outgoing US president since 1869 has attended the inauguration of the new president and vice president. However, that tradition will be broken this year as President Donald Trump has said he will not be attending the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Instead, Trump appears to be planning a trip south to his private club Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.
Oftentimes, a light lunch or tea is prepared for the president-elect at the White House on Inauguration Day, before the incoming and outgoing presidents travel together to the ceremony.
What better way to welcome the new president into office than with a spot of tea? According to The Washington Post, it is a tradition that before the outgoing president and president-elect travel together to the inauguration ceremony on January 20, the two share a pre-inauguration meal at the White House.
The light lunch or tea is usually a friendly tradition in the transition of power, but not always. During the election of 1952, President-elect Harry S. Truman and President Eisenhower engaged in a spat that led right up until Inauguration Day. Despite outgoing first lady Bess Truman preparing lunch for the two leaders, the Eisenhowers failed to show up, according to the Post, citing "The President's Club," by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy.
Ronald Reagan welcomed George H.W. Bush with a letter written on some cheeky stationery, starting the tradition of outgoing presidents leaving a letter to their successors.
The top of the stationery read "Don't let the turkeys get you down," while the bottom of the letter featured a tongue-in-cheek drawing of a cartoon elephant — perhaps in reference to the Republican party's mascot — with turkeys climbing on top of it.
"Dear George," the letter read. "You'll have moments when you want to use this particular stationery. Well, go to it. George, I treasure the memories we share and wish you all the very best. You'll be in my prayers. God bless you and Barbara. I'll miss our Thursday lunches."
Barack Obama penned a more serious letter to his successor, Donald Trump, congratulating him and stressing the importance of "democratic institutions and traditions."
It's a tradition for outgoing US presidents to welcome their successors with a letter. The handwritten letters, which are left in the Oval Office for the incoming president to find, often share advice and words of wisdom.
Former President Obama's letter to President Trump was no different.
"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," Obama wrote. "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."
"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," he continued. "Good luck and Godspeed."
George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush also wrote thoughtful letters to their successors.
"Very few have had the honour of knowing the responsibility you now feel. Very few know the excitement of the moment and the challenges you will face," George W. Bush wrote to President Barack Obama. "There will be trying 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."
Bill Clinton also offered words of advice for George W. Bush, writing, "The burdens you now shoulder are great but often exaggerated. The sheer joy of doing what you believe is right is inexpressible."
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