Congratulations, Joe, on being elected the 46th President of the United States of America. I know the fanfare of the congratulations is tempered by the sobering responsibility before you, as it’s hard to fathom the enormity of the task. You’ve been tapped to be the Chief Executive of our Federal Government and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. There are over 326 million of us living here. You’ve been charged to lead us.
I write to you this day as a mere one of those millions. I write to you not as a Democrat, Republican, or even independent. I write to you also not as one who voted for you or did not. It does not matter; you are still my President. I write to you as one you’ve been humbly charged to lead.
Excuse me for a moment — I suppose I should have asked first: “Is it ok to call you ‘Joe’?” I don’t remember any presidents in my lifetime who went primarily by their first name. 43 was often referred to by his middle initial; the last two presidents were called all sorts of names; and well, maybe Pres. Reagan, although “Ronnie” always seemed like something reserved solely for his beloved Nancy.
So allow me to share a few short statements…
One, I’m rooting for you. Two, I’m praying for you. And three, I won’t always agree with you, but that’s ok.
I root for you because if you succeed, we succeed. Your success will be tied to the oath you take this day, solemnly swearing to the best of your ability, to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” As you attempt to faithfully execute that oath, as a country we are again reminded as to what you are actually affirming — the prioritizing of unity, justice, liberty, and more. Not just for some. Not just for the majority, minority nor the marginalized. Not for a singular party. For all lives. They matter.
I pray for you because let’s face it: this is hard work. In addition to the solemnity of your oath, you will face additional obstacles. Some will be expected; some will not. Some will come from the opposing political party; some will come from within your own. Voices will attempt to sway you in ways inconsistent with your oath — as if unity, justice, etc. are not necessary for all. I am encouraged, therefore, by your recent pledge, vowing to unite us… “I pledge to be a president who does not seek to divide, but unify, who doesn’t see red states and blue states, but only sees the United States,” you promised. No doubt that won’t be easy; we’re a weary people. We’ve justified judgment and partisanship. We’ve fallen prey to decades of labeling those we disagree with — making snap, incomplete assessments as if we know the entirety of a whole people group’s heart. When we label, no doubt, we dehumanize. And unity cannot be found amidst dehumanization. This won’t be easy, Joe. And I know you know that.
In fact, you have long said, your Christian faith has been the “bedrock foundation” of your life. It has been “a constant reminder of the fundamental dignity and humanity that God has bestowed upon all of us.” I appreciate how you thus see all people created in God’s image. I think we forget that some days, believing that some were somehow not privy to such masterful crafting. Oh, how that truthful awareness would change how we see others… how we treat them, too. Hence, I will pray for your divine strength and discernment. You’ll need that; we all do, as self-reliance is perhaps one of humankind’s most enticing, accepted sins.
And lastly, I won’t always agree with you, but that’s ok. It seems in this country, we’ve made a major mistake here. We’ve fabricated this idea that we must agree, and if we don’t, “you are bad.” With all your years in the Senate — evidenced by your enduring friendships with Senators McConnell and McCain, for example — I know you know this; it doesn’t make sense. I have yet to find a person (just ask my spouse) that I agree with 100% of the time. But we simply seem to have lost the art of vocalizing disagreement respectfully. We’ve reframed the argument to suggest that disagreement equates to a gross violation of virtue (… because when it’s about virtue, we don’t have to even entertain the idea of respectful, constructive dialogue). We thus are limiting ourselves in finding the best solutions, dismissing what another’s differences bring to the table. Unfortunately, Democrats and Republicans alike have led us poorly here. We need help.
My wish for you, no less, is that your tenure will be marked by humility, integrity and God-honoring respect and compassion for all humankind. May your tenure resist the lures of partiality, partisanship and self-promotion. And may you lead wisely and well, remembering who and Whom you serve.
Thanks, Joe. Thanks for letting us call you that, too.