Open Letter to Our President-Elect
Dear Mr. President-Elect,
As an unaffiliated voter and a natural-born citizen with African immigrant parents, I would like to say congratulations on your election as the 45th president of the United States of America. Against every measurable impediment to your legitimacy as a candidate, you are now the face of the American people. You are the successor to President Barack Obama, our nation’s first Black President and a man whose own legitimacy you exuberantly questioned during the previous presidential election cycle. Nonetheless, the two of you finally met after your decisive victory, shook hands in front of the nation, and agreed to work together to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition. You pledged to seek his counsel, something I think would be wise of many successors to do. This will be especially crucial for you in the coming months.
I have read your 100 day plan, and my next two statements will not surprise you: I agree with several points. I also disagree with several points. While I question some of your policy suggestions for criminal justice, immigration, energy and the environment, I do agree with many of your proposals for cleaning up Washington. This is how democracy works, is it not? We establish common ground, work on those areas and hope that the outcome truly brings about what’s best for the nation and its people. We work together to achieve a result that will make us all proud.
As you are well aware, many people neither like nor trust you at the moment. You have probably come to terms with that decades ago, choosing instead to focus on the successes of your family, businesses and personal brand rather than things that may — or may not — have been within your control. But as you ascend to the highest office, I ask you, on behalf of our fellow Americans, to reflect deeply upon your place in our nation and the world right now.
As the seeds of division have been sown, it will now be your job to unite this nation and many more. Your candidacy, nomination and election gave voice to people who have been ignored by many — myself included. We’ve seen a lot of people ignoring cries for help recently. However, as both you and President Obama have said in victory, you are going to be president for all of America. With that in mind, there are people outside of your constituency that you need to reach out to in good faith.
Let’s start with the obvious: you need to reach out to immigrants, especially those from Latin America and the Middle East. You also need to reach out to their children, many of whom are natural-born citizens, and to the naturalized immigrants from these regions. You need to reassure all of them they are not being targeted because of their backgrounds. This will not be an easy feat, but the effort needs to be made to quell those concerns.
You need to reach out to your more violent supporters, those who take your victory as carte blanche to attack those of their choosing. Simply saying “Stop it” is not enough. As President, you must never fail to condemn the violence of your supporters as well as your detractors. If you intend to be a firm leader, you must do so with an even hand.
You need to reach out to the Movement for Black Lives (a.k.a. Black Lives Matter), the NAACP and other leaders in the Black community. You need to reassure them that your plans for criminal justice reform will not further the issues they are currently fighting to rectify. This will be difficult: “tough on crime” policies have disproportionately affected Black, Hispanic and Latin American youth historically and many will view your current suggestions as continuing that trend.
You need to reach out to the LGBTQ+ community. You need to assure them that their current rights will be protected, and that the Supreme Court will not strike down the decision made on marriage equality. This will also not be an easy task, especially given the fact that you and the vice president-elect seemingly have opposing views on the matter.
You need to reach out to Native American tribal leaders, especially those who may or may not be affected by oil pipelines like Keystone XL and the Dakota Access Pipeline. I do not know how easy or difficult this will be, but I feel this effort must also be made.
You need to reach out to environmental experts and renewable energy companies. I understand that you do not believe in climate change, but energy sources like coal and oil will not last us forever. We need sustainable energy to be developed and produced in parallel.
Last, but certainly not least: You need to talk to women. You need to work with them on maternity leave, abortion, and wage equality. Earning their trust will likely be your most difficult task given your rhetoric on the campaign trail and the various scandals and rape allegations involving you.
If you reach out to these people and more, Mr. President-Elect, and work with them, I believe you will have a very successful term in office. I will observe with intense curiosity as I learn what it means to “make America great again,” but in my mind that only occurs when we make a fractured America whole again.
Brandon C. Kesselly
Co-Founder, Rising Young Minds