Dear President Trump:
I guess I should start by letting you know that I didn’t happen to vote for you in this last election. That being said, I do sincerely want you to be successful for the sake of our great country. While I have a very different view than you when it comes to many of your policies, there are some areas where I think we can agree. For example, I agree that we need to do more to support our veterans. I also agree that it’s important for us to invest in improving our infrastructure – including roads and bridges, utilities, and sometimes decrepit government buildings. Finally, I applaud your efforts to bring new ideas and outsiders to Washington.
Like you, I’ve had some reasonable success in business over the years. My success certainly has not matched what you have achieved in business, but I have been responsible for growing and running businesses up to several hundred million dollars in annual revenue.
Unlike you, I’ve never had the responsibility of running a country. Even a small one. Nevertheless, I’d like to provide you with some advice on the eve of your assumption of this awesome responsibility. I’ll try to keep this short, I know you’re an incredibly busy man these days.
- Remember that the election is over. I know that a lot of people have raised concern about the electoral process during this past election. I believe that you won the election based on the rules that we all agreed on – and it’s time to move on. You are the president (as of next week). I think you need to stop talking about the election. If you do, other people will take your lead. Just like I have accepted you as our next president, you need to accept all of us as equal citizens of this country. Please stop talking about winners and losers. It’s time to move on.
- Admit when you are wrong. Everyone is wrong some of the time. A true leader needs to acknowledge when he is wrong, and adjust his plans accordingly. Now is the perfect time to change your view now that you have unprecedented access to information. We all understand the rhetoric that is necessary to motivate your core constituents in an election. You should take the same license that all of your predecessors have taken and soften some of your positions as necessary. For example, let’s stop talking about the wall. I’d be happy to agree that the wall is a metaphor for more secure border. Many experts are saying that it’s going to take tens of billions of dollars to build that wall. Whether Mexico directly or indirectly pays for that effort is irrelevant – I would rather take the same funds and apply them to some of the ideas that you had about improving our infrastructure.
- Understand the value of diversity. I’m a huge believer in the concept of diversity. Our great country has been successful over the last couple centuries because of diversity. We constantly bring new ideas into the melting pot and we have been able to continually reinvent ourselves because of this constant flow of ideas. Early in my business career, I realized that I was hiring too many people who looked just like me. As my leadership evolved over the years, I learned the value of bringing in people with different experiences to help me see problems and opportunities from a new perspective. When I look at your Cabinet, I’m worried that you’re not introducing enough diversity in your leadership team. Many of the people in your Cabinet seem quite accomplished, but I believe you would benefit from more ethnic, gender, socioeconomic, and political diversity among this group. The past few presidents have done a good job moving toward a more diverse Cabinet and I’m worried that you just took a step backward.
- Hire experts who know more than you do. This is another thing I learned early on in my business career. When I was a young manager, I realized that I was threatened sometimes by employees who were smarter than me – or knew more than me. I thought my job was to be the smartest guy in the room. I soon realized that my job was almost the opposite. If I could assemble the best people with the deepest experience – typically people smarter than me – I would be more successful in the end. The team you’ve assembled in your Cabinet include some pretty smart people, but they don’t really have the experience that I would like to see at this level of government. This is another area where you can tap into diversity. Maybe the leading expert in one particular area is not politically aligned with you. That’s okay. The reality is that their job is to be the domain expert and leader over that part of your Cabinet regardless of political affiliation. My dad was a great example of this. He was a pretty liberal political independent who happened to be a world expert in climate science. As a result, he was hired by both George HW Bush and George W. Bush in senior positions in their administrations.
- Respect the Office of the President. I’ve been a pretty liberal guy my entire life, which means that I have been ideologically unaligned with several presidents along the way. But once a president assumes office, I always recognize them as “my president.” That doesn’t mean that I agree with them all the time, but I always respect the awesome power and responsibility that comes with the office. Like the past shepherds of the office of the president, I’d recommend that you give the office the same respect. I have clear memory of presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush Senior, Reagan, Carter, and Ford. All of those presidents seemed to be in awe of the responsibility of the office and treated it with deep respect. It changed them. This may seem like a little bit of “tough love”, but I think you need to up the ante on the dignity front. We are living in a very divisive time and many people will try to goad you into verbal fisticuffs. Please resist the temptation to engage – ignoring people like this is often the best strategy.
By now, I’m sure you follow me on Twitter, so I want to warn you that I might disagree with you every once in a while. I might even retweet something or like something that makes fun of you. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean that I’ve lost respect for the office of the president. To the contrary, it means that I am engaging in the political process in my own way.
Good luck with your inauguration and feel free to give me a call if there’s anything I can do to help.
Citizen, United States of America