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January 20th, 2013
07:55 AM ET

Letters to the President #1462: 'Final words of advice'

Reporter's Note: President Obama’s second inauguration take place today, then tomorrow there will be a big public ceremony.

Dear Mr. President,

Well, we’ve come down to the end. You will raise your hand today and take the oath to continue being President for the next four years, and I’ve already sworn to my wife that I won’t continue writing to you. I’ll send a little note tomorrow, but this is the last time I will send any kind of substantial letter your way.

This all started because you said before you took office the first time that you would appreciate ideas from your fellow Americans. The extraordinary length of this letter writing campaign suggests I took that a tad too seriously, and in any event I think I’d be a little concerned if you’d had time to read them all.

Still, I was thinking back over everything I’ve said and wondering if it could be boiled down to a few key points that might serve you or any president well. So here goes.

1) Listen more than you talk. I realize this is an odd sentiment coming from the guy who wrote 1,463 letters, but I believe it. We learn from others, not from ourselves.

2) Don’t imagine you are the smartest person in the room. Although you seem clever enough, at any given moment in any given place we should all see the wisdom of others.

3) Treat your opponents with dignity and respect, no matter how they treat you. It is not only the hallmark of maturity and intelligence, it is also shrewd politics.

4) Know that people who think you are wrong are not stupid, evil, or shortsighted…and sometimes they are even right.

5) Remember (and this one if unique to presidents): For all the pomp and honor, for all the trappings of success and power, you work for the citizens of America. They do not work for you.

I hope for you, as I would hope for any president, that the next four years go well. I hope you have gained not just experience, but also wisdom. I hope you call one day.

Best of luck.

Regards,
Tom

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