WASHINGTON — In the Rose Garden this morning with Vice President Joe Biden at his side, President Obama declared of Donald Trump’s presidential election victory that “we are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country.”
White House staffers filled the garden for his statement, some becoming choked up with tears.
Obama said he spoke with Trump by phone at about 3:30 a.m. and invited him to the White House tomorrow “to talk about making sure that there is a successful transition between our presidencies.”
“Now, it is no secret that the president-elect and I have some pretty significant differences. But remember, eight years ago President Bush and I had some pretty significant differences. But President Bush’s team could not have been more professional or more gracious in making sure we had a smooth transition so that we could hit the ground running,” he said.
“And one thing you realize quickly in this job is that the presidency and the vice presidency is bigger than any of us. So I have instructed my team to follow the example that President Bush’s team set eight years ago, and work as hard as we can to make sure that this is a successful transition for the president-elect.”
Of Hillary Clinton, Obama said, “I could not be prouder of her.”
“She has lived an extraordinary life of public service. She was a great first lady. She was an outstanding senator for the state of New York. And she could not have been a better secretary of State,” he added. “I’m proud of her. A lot of Americans look up to her. Her candidacy and nomination was historic and sends a message to our daughters all across the country that they can achieve at the highest levels of politics.”
Obama stressed that even though “everybody is sad when their side loses an election,” the day after “we have to remember that we’re actually all on one team.”
“This is an intramural scrimmage. We’re not Democrats first. We’re not Republicans first. We are Americans first. We’re patriots first,” he said. “We all want what’s best for this country. That’s what I heard in Mr. Trump’s remarks last night. That’s what I heard when I spoke to him directly. And I was heartened by that. That’s what the country needs — a sense of unity, a sense of inclusion, a respect for our institutions, our way of life, rule of law, and respect for each other.”
“I hope that he maintains that spirit throughout this transition. And I certainly hope that’s how his presidency has a chance to begin.”
The president said he told White House staffers to keep their heads up, because their “remarkable work has left the next president with a stronger, better country than the one that existed eight years ago.”
“So win or lose in this election, that was always our mission. That was our mission from day one. And everyone on my team should be extraordinarily proud of everything that they have done and so should all of the Americans that I’ve had a chance to meet all across this country who do the hard work of building on that progress every single day,” he continued.
Obama’s message to millennials who “got into politics for the first time and may be disappointed by the results, I just want you to know, you have to stay encouraged.”
“Don’t get cynical, don’t ever think you can’t make a difference. As Secretary Clinton said this morning, fighting for what is right is worth it. Sometimes you lose an argument, sometimes you lose an election,” he said. “You know, the path that this country has taken has never been a straight line. We zig and zag and sometimes we move in ways that some people think is forward and others think is moving back, and that’s OK… if we lose, we learn from our mistakes, we do some reflection, we lick our wounds, we brush ourselves off, we get back in the arena, we go at it.”
“The point though is is that we all go forward with a presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens, because that presumption of good faith is essential to a vibrant and functioning democracy. That’s how this country has moved forward for 240 years. It’s how we’ve pushed boundaries and promoted freedom around the world. That’s how we’ve expanded the rights of our founding to reach all of our citizens. It’s how we have come this far.”
Obama said he thought of the presidency as a relay race: “You take the baton, you run your best race and hopefully by the time you hand it off, you’re a little further ahead, you’ve made a little progress. And I can say that we’ve done that and I want to make sure that handoff is well executed because ultimately we’re all on the same team.”