The Thoughtful Note That George H.W. Bush Left on Bill Clinton’s Desk Before Leaving the White House (1993)

With the pass­ing of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clin­ton reflect­ed on the life and lega­cy of his polit­i­cal pre­de­ces­sor, and par­tic­u­lar­ly the thought­ful note that Bush 41 left on his desk, right before leav­ing the White House. Dat­ed Jan­u­ary 20, 1993, it read:

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—


It’s hard not to see this let­ter as a rel­ic of an irre­triev­able age in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. But Clin­ton won’t quite buy that. He writes today in the Wash­ing­ton Post: “Giv­en what pol­i­tics looks like in Amer­i­ca and around the world today, it’s easy to sigh and say George H.W. Bush belonged to an era that is gone and nev­er com­ing back — where our oppo­nents are not our ene­mies, where we are open to dif­fer­ent ideas and chang­ing our minds, where facts mat­ter and where our devo­tion to our children’s future leads to hon­est com­pro­mise and shared progress. I know what he would say: ‘Non­sense. It’s your duty to get that Amer­i­ca back.’ ” Soon enough, after enough sturm and drang, the major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans (Elec­toral Col­lege includ­ed) may be ready to sign up for that.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

The 2,000+ Films Watched by Pres­i­dents Nixon, Carter & Rea­gan in the White House

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Comments (6)
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  • Tyson Bender says:

    Exib­it A.

  • Barbara says:

    Bush 43 was, in turn, left an office with the pet­ty imma­tu­ri­ty to have had all the “W” keys removed from the key­boards. Speaks vol­umes does­n’t it?

    Some spec­u­late that Bob­by Kennedy’s death was the begin­ning of the end for Civ­il Pol­i­tics and oth­ers blame Nixon, who let an excru­ci­at­ing­ly close loss to JFK go with­out chal­lenge and then lat­er resign to avoid the neg­a­tiv­i­ty of impeach­ment on our coun­try.

    I per­son­al­ly feel it was Bush v Gore in 2000.

  • Fynes Moryson says:

    45 could nev­er come close to write some­thing like that.

    Farewell Mr Bush. I was nev­er one for your pol­i­tics but you were always a gen­tle­man and a schol­ar.

  • Chris says:

    He may have left a nice note but he was a mass mur­der­ing war crim­i­nal with so much death, destruc­tion and suf­fer­ing left behind in his wake, the nation of Iraq may nev­er recov­er. I’ll tell you what, that nice let­ter ain’t gonna get his ass through the pearly gates. When he gets in that final ele­va­tor it’s going DOWN. Should’ve swung from a rope as far as I’m con­cerned, right along­side Rums­feld, Cheney, Wol­fowitz, Rice and the rest of that band of mur­der­ous crim­i­nals.

    It makes me sick to my stom­ach to hear all the turd pol­ish­ing that’s going on in the media since he croaked.

    Down the mem­o­ry hole..

  • Erik says:

    Lookup CRETIN in your GOOGLE ally. Then look in the mir­ror. SEE?

  • Bill W. says:

    …as opposed to whom, Chris? Bush Sr. was per­haps the last “nor­mal” POTUS we had. The rest since, have been dys­func­tion­al, includ­ing (guess who, Mr. Hopey Changey) our longest-serv­ing war present, who bombed 7 coun­tries in 8 years, and all with­out com­ment from peo­ple like your­self!

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