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Read the letter George H.W. Bush left for Bill Clinton on last day of Presidency

President Clinton and Former President George H.W. Bush together at NAFTA Kickoff, Sept. 14, 1993. (Ralph Alswang/Clinton Digital Library)
December 03, 2018

The death of former president George H.W. Bush has left the country mourning the loss of a great icon and remembering his legacy. A letter he left for his successor, former President Bill Clinton, captures some of the grace and wisdom Bush exuded in his long life.

On Jan. 20, 1993, Clinton discovered the letter when he entered the White House. He’d defeated Bush, who was vying for a second term. However, Bush didn’t let the sour taste of defeat spill through the words of wisdom he left behind.

Read the full letter below:

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—


George H. W. Bush letter to incoming president Bill Clinton, Jan. 20, 1993. (George Bush Presidential Library and Museum/Released)

“I love that letter,” Clinton said during an interview with ABC News last month. “I thought it was vintage George Bush. I thought he meant it, but I also thought he was trying to be a citizen in the highest sense of the word,”

“It was profoundly moving to me, personally,” Clinton added.

Although short and simple, Bush’s humble letter sparked a friendship between the two figures.

“I will be forever grateful for the friendship we formed,” Clinton wrote about the letter, according to CNN. “He made us feel at home, as much as he could. Total class.”

“Few Americans have been — or will ever be — able to match President Bush’s record of service to the United States and the joy he took every day from it,” Clinton said. “He never stopped serving … His remarkable leadership and great heart were always on full display.”

In June this year, former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton mentioned the letter while at a campaign event, saying she had read it for the first time in many years and it brought her to tears once again.

She said the letter displayed “the America we love. That is what we cherish and expect,” she said, according to The Washington Post.

“Let us come together. We can disagree without being disagreeable. We can root for each other’s success, where our President is everyone’s president, and our future belongs to us all. Let’s make this once again the big-hearted, fair-minded country we all love so much,” she said at the campaign event.

Former President Bush passed away on Nov. 30 at the age of 94.

His remains will travel via Air Force One to Washington, D.C. on Monday, where they will lie in state at the Capitol rotunda for public viewing until Wednesday.

A funeral service will be conducted on Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral, then Bush’s remains will return to Houston on Thursday to his final resting place at the Bush’s Presidential library.