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A handover letter from George H.W. Bush to Bill Clinton is a reminder of grace in politics

“Your success now is our country’s success,” Bush wrote on Inauguration Day 1993. “I am rooting hard for you.”

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Former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama address an audience on the campus of Texas A&M University on October 21, 2017, in College Station, Texas.
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Following the death of President George H.W. Bush, many are sharing online the touching letter that he left for his successor Bill Clinton on Inauguration Day 1993.

In the letter, written on White House letterhead and signed “George,” Bush Sr. shares the wonder and respect he felt for the office, and wishes success and happiness for the man who defeated him in his bid for reelection.

“I wish you great happiness here,” Bush wrote. “I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described.”

The gracious letter provides a marked contrast to the current era, with many pointing out that it recalls a more respectful time. While personal letters to presidential successors are by now an ongoing tradition, there is something particularly heartfelt and honest about George’s to Bill.

Later in life, the two former presidents became something of a political odd-couple, developing a close relationship as they raised tens of millions of dollars for victims of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and a tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean in 2004.

Read the letter in full below:

Dear Bill,

When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too.

I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described.

There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.

You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.

Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.

Good luck—


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