Mr. President-Elect, you surprised me last summer when you came down that escalator at Trump Tower and entered the large field of Republican candidates for president. I expected you to make a little news and then just fade away like old soldiers do.
And then, you surprised me last fall when your candidacy did not shrivel after you made more than a few of what I thought were disqualifying comments. I expected your flippant statements about war heroes, women’s menstrual cycles, and Gold Star families to end your run.
But no, you further surprised me when you started winning Republican primaries. I saw no substance in your positions, only your overwhelming charismatic bravado and bluster. I thought that such audacity was not enough for you to gain the nomination. Silly me!
Then, you surprised me once again when you indeed captured the Republican nomination for president.
You further surprised me when your general election campaign remained firmly in the environment you crafted during the primaries instead of moving to more neutral, centrist waters. That was not the way to win, I told myself.
And finally, surprise of all surprises, you surprised me on November 8 when you gained enough electoral votes to claim the presidency of the United States and defeat Hillary Clinton.
You have surprised me time and time again. And now, Mr. President-Elect, I implore you, please, keep surprising me.
Surprise me by shelving the rhetoric of fear, mistrust, and violence that you stoked at your rallies during the campaign. Repudiate the signs and t-shirts that say things like “Trump that Bitch” and “Lock Her Up.” Apologize to the young boy with cerebral palsy who, at your rally in Florida, was jeered at and threatened. The antonyms of fear, mistrust, and violence are assurance, faith and peace. These are the “best” words I know: please start using them. If you truly want to make America great again, you must first seek to make America civil again.
Surprise me by once and for all disavowing talk you deem fit for locker rooms. It is neither appropriate for locker rooms nor anywhere else. Pair this disavowal with a true apology, not one conditioned by the word “if.” Do not say, “If I offended anyone, I’m sorry.” Just say you are sorry because you have offended people. You offended me, for instance, and I do not have the anatomy of which you spoke on that “Access Hollywood” bus with Billy Bush. Some say the president need not be a role model, but that is preposterous. You have been and will continue to be a role model. The question is, what role will you be modeling?
Surprise me by making the transition from public figure to public servant. You have existed on the sustenance of your own celebrity for so long that I expect you will find it difficult to relinquish the need to be liked and praised. The president must make hard choices and sometimes the popular choice is not the right one. As the chief public servant in the nation, you are tasked with putting your own needs behind the needs of the country and the world. For a lesson on what it means to be a servant, since you say that the Bible is your favorite book, I invite you to read that passage in John’s Gospel in which just before he is arrested and crucified, Jesus took off his outer robe, tied a towel around his waist, knelt down and washed his disciples’ feet. In this great act of humility, Jesus demonstrated the true meaning of leadership as service. Please follow his example.
Surprise me by continuing to reach out to all who exist on the margins. You won the presidency by mobilizing an overlooked segment of the electorate, who has been ignored for far too long. Sadly, the margins of this nation are wider than they should be: too many people exist there, including many groups of historically persecuted peoples who did not vote for you. As president, they are your priority; please do not forget that.
Surprise me by turning your charismatic entrepreneurship into leadership that turns old foes into unlikely allies. Much has been said about your outsider status, but as president you are about to be as “inside” as it gets. Allow your entrepreneurial heart to guide you to build coalitions within the government so something actually is accomplished in Washington. Just make sure that something is the right something.
Surprise me by allowing your famous intuition to be leavened by an inquiring mind. The world is more complex than any of us knows, and soon you will be handed the same binder that President Obama was handed eight years ago. It will lay out the actual state of the world in all its complexity. No one is ready for such revelation, and you must respond by doing your homework, not just by going with your gut or picking up information from the Internet or Fox News.
Surprise me by reaching out to the LGBT community, the Latino community, the Muslim community, and the African-American community. Apologize for your campaign rhetoric and promise you will continue to protect their rights, both longstanding and more recently achieved.
Surprise me by earning my trust, or else such promises are worthless. I must admit that my trust level is rather low right now, so prove me wrong.
Mr. President-Elect, you will be the forty-fifth president of the United States of America. You will step into the shoes of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and, yes, Barack Obama.
So surprise me. All of us like surprises and I am not the exception.
Please, keep surprising me.