PROVIDENCE — Former governor Gina M. Raimondo did not work closely with Daniel J. McKee when he was lieutenant governor, and she did not attend the inauguration ceremony when McKee, a fellow Democrat, succeeded her as governor.
But Raimondo, who is now President Joe Biden’s US Secretary of Commerce, did leave a hand-written note for McKee on the desk in the governor’s office at the State House.
“Dan,” Raimondo wrote on stationery bearing the state seal. “Congratulations! You will be great at the job and love it. Not every day will be great but every day matters. Keep the needs of the people front and center in all that you do. I am here for you and always happy to provide support. Best, Gina Raimondo.”
Through his spokeswoman, McKee said, “I appreciate Secretary Raimondo’s note, her words of support, and offer for assistance. I agree with her sentiment that every day truly does matter.”
Former governor Lincoln D. Chafee said he left a handwritten letter for Raimondo in the center drawer of the governor’s desk when she succeeded him in January 2015. “I like to respect tradition,” he said.
Chafee said he could not remember the specifics of his letter to Raimondo but he said his message had an “upbeat tone.”
Chafee, a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat who joined the Libertarian Party in 2019, said his predecessor, Republican Donald L. Carcieri, did not leave him a note, but he said “someone from his staff stepped up and put a nice note in the desk drawer.”
Chafee said he and Carcieri had “really split over his ramming 38 Studios through right before the election.” Chafee had opposed the $75-million loan guarantee that the state provided, under Carcieri, for former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s now-bankrupt video-game company, 38 Studios.
At the White House, outgoing presidents have a tradition of leaving a note in the Oval Office for the incoming president.
The tradition reaches back to at least 1989, when outgoing president Ronald Reagan left a message for incoming president George H.W. Bush. Reagan wrote on stationery that contained a cartoon depiction of an elephant (the symbol of the Republican Party) covered in turkeys and the caption, “Don’t let the turkeys get you down.”
Perhaps the most famous letter by an outgoing president was the gracious note that George H.W. Bush left for Bill Clinton, even though the two had clashed in the 1992 presidential campaign.
“You will be our President when you read this note,” Bush wrote, underlining the word “our.” “I wish you well. I wish your family well. Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.”
When he was leaving office, Barack Obama left Donald J. Trump a letter, wishing him well and urging him to endeavor to leave the “instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.”
Once in office, Trump shattered a variety of norms and traditions, and after losing to President Joe Biden, he did not concede with a congratulatory phone call or attend Biden’s inauguration. But Trump did leave Biden a note. Biden has described the note as “a very generous” letter but has said he won’t share it until he has a chance to speak with Trump.