United States White House
President Donald Trump
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW.
Washington, DC 20500
The platform for your 2016 presidential campaign was built upon the slogan, “Make America great again,” which begs the question: what makes a nation “great”? Is greatness based on military prowess, or the strength of the economy? Perhaps how its leaders respond during times of crises? Each of those factors could certainly be ingredients in composing a recipe for national greatness, but history has recorded a different answer. Millenia ago, long before America was discovered, King Solomon observed, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people” (Proverbs 14:34). From that we learn that a nation is ultimately raised to greatness when its people possess the strength and integrity of character to consistently do what is right. Since any chain is only as strong as its weakest link, no country can ever be collectively great unless it first is so on the level of its individual citizenry. Therefore, in your slogan, the inclusion of the word “again” encourages each of us, individually, to peer through the window of history and to look to the past for a reminder of how we rose to a position of preeminence in the first place. When we do so, we can see that some of our most esteemed leaders understood that our greatness was built upon our character; as evidenced from the following quotes:
“Americanism is a question of principle, of purpose, of idealism, of character. It is not a matter of birthplace or creed or line of descent” (Theodore Roosevelt). *
The qualities of a great man are “vision, integrity, courage, understanding, the power of articulation, and profundity of character” (Dwight Eisenhower). *
“Character is the only secure foundation of the state” (Calvin Coolidge). *
So, since the success of a nation is guided by the character of its people, and the character of a nation’s leaders helps to shape the character its people, it stands to reason that the character of the nation’s commander-in-chief is a point of paramount significance and concern. When you were elected, in a figurative sense you became like a city set upon a hill, and how you conduct yourself sets an example and standard of behavior for billions of people throughout the world. Therefore, I wish to reframe the discussion of making America great again. I ask you to consider the challenge of such an undertaking starting not from a national scale, but from the level of the individual. Specifically, I ask you to reflect upon the following question: what impact will your character have on the character of the people you lead? I ask, because if America became great due to the character of its past citizens, the continuation of that greatness requires that our brothers and sisters of today have leaders who will be role models of the same type of right character that lifted us to those prior heights.
As citizens, we have the responsibility to “not speak evil about the ruler of your people” (Acts 23:5, from Exodus 22:28). Many in our country have disregarded that precept, and those who have made your job more difficult by doing so are not without guilt. So the question I asked of you regarding your personal character is not intended as a personal attack, nor is it intended to be an all-encompassing examination. I would focus it singly on how you choose to express yourself when addressing those you consider to be opponents, because our leaders also have a reciprocal duty to conduct themselves in such a way as to not provoke or induce others to speak ill of them. And if you, as our chief citizen, consistently speak ill of those you regard as opponents, what message does that send? Should it come as a surprise if many reciprocate your example by disparaging you?
Words are like seeds, Mr. President. Be careful what you plant in another person’s heart, because those who “sow the wind, reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7). The reason for my concern in writing you, then, is the inflammatory nature of your speech. No one can harvest peace while sowing discord. Much of our strength stems from the fact that we are still the United States of America, but our country today is becoming increasingly more fractured, and “a house divided against itself cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). If you speak as a roaring lion, devouring others with your words, you promote further disunity, widening the divide; and rather than inspiring us to greatness, you will push us further down the road to a terrible fall.
Character and integrity go hand-in-hand. Integrity is wholeness, and to make whole that which is divided requires integrity. Great men unite. They integrate others into a whole. You will never win converts by attacking those with whom you have disagreement. So if you truly have a genuine desire to lead America back to greatness, you must always be conscious that our return path lies upon the high ground, and you must be committed to personally walking it: remembering that the greatest leaders do not destroy their opponents, they convert them into allies. They do so by holding firm to their convictions, while consistently demonstrating to their adversaries the rightness of their principles.
The responsibility of uniting our nation once fell upon the shoulders of one of our most beloved presidents, Abraham Lincoln. What he learned through the difficulties he encountered in carrying such a heavy burden can be discerned from the following quote:
“Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside me.”
In other words, the shadow is based on what people say of you, but the tree is who you really are. Sometimes the shadow accurately outlines the tree, sometimes it distorts it, making it appear larger or smaller than it truly is. It all depends on how the light is shining upon it. Lincoln was great because when the light of our nation dimmed, it shined brighter in him. He understood that the strength that matters most is having the character to do what is right in spite of all resistance. This quote illustrates that he believed in holding fast to his conviction of what was right, and if the cost was that the whole world would oppose him, so be it: because he knew that it is better to be hated by the world for doing right than it is to end up loathing yourself for doing wrong.
Lincoln recognized that, ultimately, the shadow is not the tree — just as a man is sometimes more than his reputation, sometimes less. To lead others to greatness, one cannot merely talk about it — for substance is not found in the shadow — one must be great. Greatness is most suitably displayed when one has a humble eagerness to put others first. Therefore, I urge you to cease from self-serving boasting and derogatory speech, to focus instead on becoming the greatest servant of the public good that you can be. Do this first, and we, the people, will joyously follow. Some few may still oppose you, and so the path back to greatness may not always be smooth, but you will be well compensated for the struggle: for there is great peace which comes from knowing with certainty that you are on the right path — a peace which will still the natural instinct to lash out and transform it into a habit of reaching out. May this letter inspire you to consistently walk that path, for the benefit not just of our nation, but the entire world.
In conclusion, I encourage you to think differently than you have previously, in regards to how you respond to those who disagree with you — for in changing your perspective, you have the power to reshape both the shadow and the tree, and rewrite how you will be memorialized in the hearts of your people. Be humble, and be a champion for peace, and you will make huge strides toward being a president who truly made America great again.
Yours in Christian love,
A concerned citizen
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45).
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
“Mockers stir up a city, but the wise turn away anger” (Proverbs 29:8).
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matt. 5:9).