This White House tradition is a reminder of the importance of civility

George H.W. Bush, President Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter.
(Image credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Only a handful of living people understand what it's like to be the president of the United States, and for any incoming POTUS, few things are more valuable than a note from the outgoing leader, imparting advice and words of encouragement.

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With Donald Trump saying he's not sure if he'll accept the results of the election on Nov. 8, pundits are wistfully remembering what it was like when candidates, after sometimes brutal campaigns, agreed to move forward after the votes were counted for the sake of the country. When the losing candidate was the sitting president, it added another layer to the tradition of dropping a line to the next president. The letter George H.W. Bush wrote to Bill Clinton on Jan. 20, 1993, first started making the rounds in June, but it recently began circulating again, with some noting it was from a time when "politics had grace."

In the letter, Bush said he wished the Clinton family "well," and he was "rooting hard" for the new president. "There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair," Bush wrote. "I'm not a very good one to give advice; but just don't let the critics discourage you or push you off course."

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Years later, Clinton wrote his own letter to George W. Bush (and included a copy of the note his father left him), and Bush 43 went on to write a missive to Barack Obama. His daughters, Jenna and Barbara, also penned a letter to Sasha and Malia Obama, sharing their memories of the White House, fun tips like "slide down the banister of the solarium," and their "most important piece of advice: Remember who your dad really is." Letters like this prove that civility has no political affiliation.

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.