Open Letter to President Elect Trump

Dear President-elect Donald Trump,

First let me congratulate you on your election victory. During your victory speech you said

"Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division, .... To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people."

I will take you at your word that you truly believe this to be a desirable goal of your future Presidency. Bringing our very diverse country together is a noble thought, a worthwhile goal, and would be an amazing achievement. As you transition from President Elect to President of the United States I hope you see this goal as your responsibility, an obligation to the people of the United States and do whatever you can to facilitate this noble goal. The national protests over your election victory illustrate how difficult the task of bringing the nation together will be. I also trust you recognize the divisive nature of your appointment of Steve Bannon as your chief strategist, which will make this task all the more difficult.

During your victory speech you also stated:

"For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, ... I'm reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country."

I am one of those who did not vote for you in the election. You asked for guidance and help in working together and unifying the country. I am taking you at your word and would like to offer you some advice as to how you could start down the path toward reconciliation.

I found many of your statements during the election highly offensive, fanning the flames of hatred, and creating deeper divisions within an already deeply divided country. If your desired goal is unity, you could start by leading the country on a path toward reconciliation. Good leadership starts by setting an example. Therefore, I humbly suggest that you could set an example by acknowledging your role in deepening the divisions among us and then proceed down a path toward reconciliation. Such a path starts with repentance, followed by apology, change in behavior and restitution. Only then does reconciliation become a realistic possibility.

The first step is to acknowledge, publicly and to God, the role your statements have in dividing the country. If you do not feel a sense of responsibility for your divisive speech, or contrition for your words, then I do not see how you can be effective in leading the country down a path of reconciliation, rather your words will continue to embolden those who choose hate over love.

After accepting responsibility, the next step is apology. As just one example, the NY times made a list of the 282 people places and things that you have insulted on twitter during the course of the campaign; in my opinion you owe each of them an apology. Generally, apologies need to be specific, addressed to the appropriate audience and include a promise to stop the destructive behavior. It would help if you made a commitment to complete these apologies in the first 100 days of your Presidency. The sincerity of apologies is often judged by seeing if there is a change in behavior. You could condemn the current rise in violence against Americans based on their race, gender, ethnicity and sexual preference as well as a pledge to use your future office as President to combat such violence. Another suggestion is to require that your staff and advisers have not and will not engage in divisive behavior.

After an apology and a change in behavior the next step is restitution, an attempt at mitigating the effects of the wrong. The nature of the restitution is not determined by the offender, but is something accepted by the offended or hurt individual(s). If you choose to apologize to the 282 people, places and things that you offended on twitter, there could be 282 different forms of restitution.

Once acknowledgement, repentance, apology, and restitution are accomplished, then and only then is reconciliation a realistic possibility. Reconciliation is a gift offered by those who have been injured, not something that the offender demands. Apologies do not eliminate the hurt and harm that has been done; the words and injury do not disappear because of an act of contrition. Restitution does not make the harm disappear; rather it speaks to willingness of the offender to take responsibility for their actions. Reconciliation is based on an evaluation by the offended that a continued relationship is warranted despite the wounds that have been inflicted. Not everyone will be willing to accept reconciliation, but that does not eliminate the moral requirement on the offender to proceed toward this goal.

Perhaps during this process you will come to understand why some of your proposals have created such division, emboldened increased violence, and lead to the protests of your election.

The willingness to repent, apologize, change behavior, offer restitution and hope for reconciliation is not a sign of weakness; rather it is a sign of good moral character. The decision to not go down this path could be interpreted either as a sign of weakness, or a sign that you do not see anything wrong with your words, behavior and proposals. If you do not see anything wrong with your words, behavior and proposals over the course of your presidential campaign, then in all likelihood this country will remain highly divided during your Presidency.

Now that you are the President Elect of the United States, I hope and pray that you will choose to lead the United States toward reconciliation by example, heading down a path that acknowledges the hurt and harm done by your campaign, offers apologies for that harm, changes your future behavior, offers restitution and seeks reconciliation.