Dear Mr. President,
When I was in the first grade, I wrote a letter to then-President George H.W. Bush. I told him about my school, my brothers, and invited him to my house for dinner because I thought my mom’s cooking was the best in the world. Filled with misspellings and grammatical errors, I mailed the letter. As a little kid, I couldn’t have fathomed the amount of mail that arrives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on a daily basis. My little letter addressed from Frederick, OK was lost in the shuffle. Needless to say, I never heard from the president and he never came over for meatloaf (his loss).
That simple act of innocence taught me a valuable lesson. In our democracy, people of all ages, stripes, and backgrounds, can sit down to a piece of paper and petition their government. Later, I would learn you could do even more from the public square. I will never forget that lesson. I still apply those teachings to this day. I have no doubt that our current president will skip this letter. I plan on making it an annual tradition though. I have no illusions about any of his successors reading it either. There have been many lessons learned since that initial letter.
Politics boils down to an argument about the soul of the country. I honestly believe Conservatives, Liberals, Republicans, Democrats, those in between, and those on the fringes want what is the best for this country. We simply disagree on the path. This debate is healthy, and the discourse leads to progress. The debate pushes the country forward, but not at a pace which could be unhealthy for it. For those who find themselves eager for progress, this can be frustrating. For those proudly clinging to the values of the past, I imagine the opposite is true.
I first fell in love with politics during the 1992 election. I was enamored by Bill Clinton. Maybe my heart was broken because President Bush never wrote me back, but after watching both the Republican and Democratic Conventions I decided I was a Democrat. I have claimed allegiance to the party ever since. Over the course of my life, I have lived through the presidencies of Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, W., Obama, and Trump. Before 2016, I respected the office of the president despite the moral failings of the person occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. All presidents have moral failings. They are human after all, but even those who I disagreed with I found something to respect.
I remember watching Reagan addressing the nation after the space shuttle Challenger exploded in the sky. I remember Bush Sr. explaining his reasoning for the Gulf War, his hopes of protecting an ethnic minority and freeing a people. I will never forget Clinton’s journey to Oklahoma City to heal a nation after the OKC Bombing. When W. stood on top of the rubble in lower Manhattan, I was prepared to go to war and protect my country. Obama won my respect after a visit to Sandy Hook. I am still waiting for this president to deliver a moment where I can silence my disagreements and respect his place in the Oval Office. I fear that moment will never come.
If it doesn’t, what does it mean? Does the president’s moral failing make it impossible for people like me to ever view the office with dignity again? Have his failings caused a seismic shift in how we view politics, politicians, and the inner-workings of government? Can they ever be salvaged? These are questions I cannot answer. Only time will be able to tell. My only hope is that we aren’t too far gone to save the soul of democracy.
Every action has unintended consequences that are both good and bad. When you are the president of the United States, those consequences are magnified. I fear the consequences born from this president’s decisions. So much so, that I hope and pray that he is primaried during the 2020 election. While I wholeheartedly believe a strong Democratic contender could help change the debate, I believe inner division and a battle for the soul of the Republican party might have an even bigger impact.
So, no. President Trump will not stumble across this corner of the internet, but if he does I have one more thing to share. Mr. President, I want to believe in you and in the power of positive change made possible by your position. I have always wanted you to succeed because when you do America succeeds. Yet, I fear we are past the point of no return and desperate change is needed.
Be good to each other,
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