By the time most people read this you will no longer be the President-Elect of the United States of America. Instead, you will be the newly inaugurated forty-fifth President of the United States of America. There may not be another position in the whole world that comes with as much power and responsibility as the one you are about to undertake, which is also the very reason that I am writing this letter.
First, in the interest of full disclosure, I did not vote for you, nor do I support your stated agenda for our country, or your consistently divisive rhetoric. As a leader I have found that hearing the views of those who do not hold my positions is vital to the overall health of my community. I hope this is a value you share, and you will take these words (which I know you are very unlikely to ever read) of concern in the spirit they are written, which is a deep concern for the future of our country, and my children.
There’s a story in the Hebrew scriptures about king Solomon that I think applies to anyone in a position of leadership, especially one that carries as much power, responsibility, and influence as the office of the Presidency. Found in 1 Kings 10, the story follows a recounting of Solomon’s wealth and building initiatives. He had much prosperity, he was responsible for the building of several tremendous structures, and he was developing a reputation around the world as a successful, wealthy, powerful king. Then, the queen of Sheba arrived for a state visit, to see if Solomon was really as successful and legit as his reputation insisted.
And she was impressed with what she saw.
The text says that it “took her breath away.”
Her response was to tell Solomon that God had made him king “to uphold justice and righteousness.” Now, I have to tell you, I don’t think God made you president. I think it was actually the Rust Belt that made you president. Nevertheless, the last part applies. You have been given a role that carries great power, and with that comes the responsibility of upholding justice and righteousness for all people. Another way to put it is this: your responsibility now is to make wise decisions that are just and lead to the flourishing of your fellow citizens, and hopefully, the world. So, I’d like to offer my two-cents about some of those decisions.
First, you must uphold justice by condemning the racism and xenophobia that were energized by your campaign. No matter how you slice it, you were endorsed by white supremacists. Something about your message was appealing to them, and that should be deeply troubling to you, and everyone else for that matter. This can’t be papered over or ignored; it must be repudiated by you, boldly and forcefully.
Second, you must uphold justice by championing the freedoms we enjoy, for all Americans. This means Muslim Americans. A registry of Muslim Americans, that singles people out based on their religion, is unAmerican and unacceptable. This also means not undermining the free press. Just because you don’t like what a reporter says, or just because someone says something unfavorable, doesn’t mean you get to call everything you don’t like “fake news.” All Americans must count. That means LGBTQ Americans who want, not extra rights as Ben Carson suggests, but the same rights other Americans enjoy. That also means minorities that live in fear now because of your rhetoric. They must know that they matter, that their voice has a place in the national discourse, and that you support their flourishing as well.
Third, you must uphold justice by making sure that the most vulnerable among us are cared for. This includes the poor and the sick. The Affordable Care Act is surely not perfect, but repealing it without a replacement is immoral and unjust. Millions of Americans would be without coverage and without lifesaving treatments. This is America, and that can not stand. Do not let your Republican colleagues put the cart before the horse. Don’t let them take out their obvious disdain for President Obama and his policies on the American people, one of whom happens to be my mother. You are a billionaire and many of the people you have surrounded yourself with share your affluence. Don’t forget the poor. Don’t rig things in favor of the rich. After all, you were elected, in large part, by people who are struggling economically, because you promised to be their champion. Be it.
Finally, you must uphold justice by thinking about the future and not just the present. The decisions your administration makes and the policies it implements will shape the world that our children grow up in, and that requires significant thought about what we are doing. Don’t make decisions today just because they are financially or politically expedient for this moment. Instead, have the courage to make choices that are forward-thinking, and that will leave a better world behind for our children and grandchildren and so on. This means taking climate change seriously, and not creating an anything goes policy when it comes to curbing our impact on the climate. This is going to be one of those issues that future generations will look back on, either with pride or disappointment. When Copernicus and Galileo insisted we live in a heliocentric solar system, they were called heretics and renounced. Today, we see how foolish that was, because they were right. I think the 97% of the scientific community that says not only is climate change real, but that we are impacting it in significant ways, probably know more than you or I about the issue. We should let them help shape our policies in wise ways moving forward. This forward-thinking approach also applies to the financial markets. We are now on the other side of difficult recession. The economy is continuing to improve. Don’t roll back regulations and adopt the same policies that led to the economic downturn. Think bigger than now. Our future generations will be grateful that you did.
President Trump, your job is not an easy one. The task is immense, the pressure is intense, and there will always be something that needs your attention. As a Christian, pastor, husband, father, and human being, I join with so many others asking you to be part of the healing process. Americans can not unite after the brutal, nasty campaign season we experienced without healing. Be patient. Honor differences of opinion. Be big enough to not retaliate in childish ways, and to apologize when you’re wrong.
Be a president for all Americans.
As for my part…
I will refuse to dehumanize you. I will offer critique when it’s needed, and I will acknowledge it if you do something good, that upholds justice.
I will also be praying for you. Praying that you will uphold justice and righteousness, that you will be a good leader for our country and the world. I will also not be afraid to disagree with you, or to resist any unjust policies or attitudes that come from your administration.
Finally, I will seek to be the best human being I can be, and I will seek to make my own community better. I will use my sphere of influence, as best I can, to uphold justice, as well.
Grace and peace,