President Obama, speaking at the White House today, didn’t downplay his differences with President-elect Trump but called for a smooth transition of power and national unity.
“It is no secret that the president-elect and I have some pretty big differences,” Obama said. But he also had big differences with President George W. Bush, from whom he took over in 2009, and Bush and his staff were nothing but gracious during the transition. He has instructed his staff to be just as gracious, Obama said.
Obama said he spoke to Trump last night, and “we are all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country.” He also spoke to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and said he couldn’t be prouder of her. “Her candidacy and nomination was historic and sends a message to our daughters,” he said. Clinton would have been the first woman U.S. president.
He acknowledged the pain her supporters are feeling today. “Everbody is sad when their side loses an election,” he said. But he also called for unity.
“We’re not Democrats first, we’re not Republicans first, we’re Americans first,” he said. “We’re patriots first. We all want what’s best for our country.”
“A lot of Americans are exultant today,” he added. “A lot of Americans are less so. That is the nature of campaigns.” Seeming to recognize many Americans’ fears that the progress made under Obama would be reversed in a Trump presidency, he noted that the path of progress is not a straight line.
“We zig and zag,” he said. He likened the path to a relay race, where one person hands the baton off to another, and in the end you hope there are been a few steps forward by each one. “Ultimately, we’re all on the same team.”
He further pleaded with young people who have gotten involved in the political process this year to stay active. “Don’t get cynical,” he said. “Don’t ever think you can’t make a difference.” And he urged everyone to have faith in their fellow citizens.
“I’m very confident that this remarkable journey we’re on will go on,” he said.