Author’s Note: This letter was written on April 30, 2017 in the wake of Donald Trump’s first one hundred days in office and mailed shortly thereafter. I wrestled intensely with whether or not to publish it in a public setting, and have decided in favor of doing so.
April 30, 2017
President Donald J. Trump
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Trump,
Allow me, sir, to introduce myself. My name is Rance Garrison. I am thirty years old. I have a beautiful wife who I have been with the past seven years. We have no children yet, but we hope to within the next year or two. I live in the Appalachian coalfields of southwest Virginia. At this point in my life, I find myself seeking a master’s degree from Emmanuel Seminary in nearby Johnson City, Tennessee. Somewhat ironically, I also handle security for a regional rock concert promoter and work as a driver at a local pizza place while selling advertising for our local access television channel. I guess you might say I’m a bit of a hustler. I have dreams of being both an entrepreneur as well as a man of the Spirit deeply ingrained in the culture and community of my own little corner of rural America. I want to be clear that I do not represent any party, church, or institution private or public. I am only a single man, like yourself.
I sincerely hope that this letter finds you well. I wish to congratulate you on your first one hundred days in office as well as your victory in November’s election. I will be the first to admit that I did not support your candidacy. In fact, I was very outspoken about that opposition on social media, yet here it is now and here we are. I can’t say that I support some of the policies you have pursued or your divisive rhetoric, yet I find myself sensing that there is something very intensely human about you. You are a man who wears his flaws and even his sins openly and you seem to have little pretense about who you are, and for that, I must give you respect. As a sincere yet imperfect follower of the most authentic man to ever walk the earth, I respect people who are truly themselves.
I believe that man, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, has led me tonight to write this letter to you, and I write prayerfully that his spirit will move between you and me. You say you are likewise a follower of this same Lord, and I am trusting that affirmation of your own personal faith to be authentic in spite of my own unease and misgivings. I read recently that you were feeling quite lonely in your current position, and I imagine that the weight of the world would hang heavily on anyone’s shoulders who found themselves the President of this great country. I know it would be a weight on me, brother, and I cannot begin to imagine the day-to-day stress that you must be faced with. While I have never been your biggest fan, you are still a child of God, and when I put myself in your shoes, I always feel moved to pray that God will give you wisdom, strength, patience, and a strong sense of moral responsibility to the people of this country and to the world.
In that prayerful Spirit, I ask that you remember the poor, the elderly, and the downtrodden of this land, Donald, for it was they who elected you. The people of Appalachia are suffering. My hometown of Pennington Gap, Virginia lost its hospital in 2013. I do not know what the policy solution for Pennington Gap to have a re-opened hospital would be at the Federal level, but I do know that there are twenty-five thousand people living in a rural county with no hospital in Virginia, many of them elderly, many of them your supporters. In cases of medical emergency, these citizens of this great country, many of whom are older people with little financial means, are forced to be driven by ambulance as much as forty-five minutes away to the nearest medical facility. You are advancing in years, sir, and just as I have placed myself in your shoes, I ask that you place yourself in the shoes of the elderly and poor and sick who have little money and inadequate access to timely lifesaving health care in my own hometown of Pennington Gap and in the other economically impoverished areas of this wealthy nation.
Remember the sick. You have supported universal healthcare in the past, and I prayerfully ask that you support some form of universal healthcare in this country today. You could become a champion for people on both sides of this country’s political aisle-you could become a hero in the minds of many—if you truly took up the cause of the poor and downtrodden of this land. I know that you are a man of great means, and while I have always held something of a distrust for people of great means, many of this nation’s poor, sick, and old have seen something in you that has led them to be your most ardent supporters. You represent a turn from the usual political order, and people need hope now more than ever. What an amazing moment it would be if you truly did do away with a healthcare system that left many suffering, that cares more for money than for the lives of God’s children, and instead embraced the sort of socialized healthcare that the other developed nations of the Western world enjoy today.
I ask you to remember the immigrants of this country, President Trump. While I understand that our nation’s security is of the highest importance, we also have a moral responsibility as children of God to respect and protect the stranger in our midst. For some of these people, America is the only home they have ever known. For others, the United States represents a hope that echoes that which must have been felt by the Israelites as they wondered in the desert in search of the Promised Land. These immigrants, too, are your people, sir. Be their protector, not their persecutor, and history will remember your name with honor and respect forever.
Remember our military and veterans, and in the words of our Lord, remember his command to “love your enemies.” In all matters of national security, seek the common peace above all else. Our country has been at war, it seems, for nearly all of my thirty years. This is tragic, sir. While I know that there “will be war and rumors of war” forever, the scope of our military industrial complex controls far too much of our foreign policy. You campaigned against this, you must take up that cause again. The state of our world is too dire. Most importantly, I know that you have children and grandchildren, and like any father or grandfather, I know that you must want the best for your descendants. We cannot risk nuclear war, and I know that the weight of that must bear down upon you. I pray that God will bestow upon you the wisdom, patience, and guidance to avoid such a tragedy, and that in this current climate of global fear and tension, a great peace will emerge such that the world has never seen. History will remember you as a truly great man, Mr. Trump, if you show that you are a man of peace. As our Lord once said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
Remember those who are struggling economically. So many people in my community are facing joblessness and poverty. While this area has traditionally been a producer of coal, the coal industry’s decline is irrevocable. Rural America supported you overwhelmingly. There are small towns throughout the Appalachian Mountains and across this great country that are full of people who have very little financial means or opportunity who absolutely adore you, Mr. President. Remember them, and do all that you can to expand opportunities for rural and Appalachian Americans. They are some of your biggest supporters, and you owe them a chance at the economic security and for a slice of the American Dream that all of us long for; however, this vision for an economically secure future must look toward the future, not the past, for inspiration. We must invest in technologies, education, and infrastructure to give all Americans, both rural and urban, a bright economic future and a shot at the sort of success that you have yourself enjoyed. If you work toward this end, history will remember you as a man of great vision.
Finally, I ask that you remember the whole spectrum of this country’s diversity, its viewpoints, its various internal cultures, its beautiful people, all of whom are Americans, and all of whom now look to you as their primary moral example. From our magnificent major cities to our beautiful small towns, you now represent America to the world and serve as a great moral influence on the souls of the people of this country. Seek to unify rather than divide, to heal rather than scorn. Be gentle with others, Donald, but above all, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of God, and so is every man, woman, and child on earth. Before Him, we are all equal, the mighty and the meek. You are loved, Donald, by many of the people of this country, but more importantly by the Creator Himself. If you walk before him and your fellow man with humility and a sense of equity toward all people, you will heal the divides in our country and restore our national civic pride.
The world needs examples of wise and courageous leadership. You can become that shining example. You can become the lion on the side of the marginalized. You can become that champion that the people of this country need. Your presidency is only one hundred days old; it is young and still yet full of possibility if you align yourself fully with the Gospel of Jesus Christ—a gospel which reaches to the places of despair in our midst and brings about life-giving hope in the darkest of moments. You can help show the world, along with the citizens of this great country, that America is a country where people of all races and all religions can live together in peace, where justice and equality reign, where Democracy and the common good are our highest national pursuits. You can steer this country toward a greatness the likes of which it has never seen, and you can do so by taking up the social and economic causes of those who are most marginalized in modern America.
History is calling, Donald, and the all-seeing eye of God bears witness to the ages. You are the President of the United States. You are a successful businessman. You are a celebrity. You may very well be the most famous man on earth. But even if you were none of those things, even if you were an ordinary Joe with less than a dollar to his name, you would still be God’s child, and like all of humanity, you would be loved beyond measure. Stand with the poor, Donald. Stand for peace and prosperity. Stand where Christ stood. Stand and be counted.
I cannot promise you my vote in November of 2020. That will depend on how the next few years unfold. But I can promise you my sincere prayers and best wishes. May God grant you His peace and wisdom in all matters of leadership, and may health and happiness be yours and your family’s. I sincerely pray that this letter reaches you, and if you, or a member of your staff, feel moved to respond to me, I would be quite receptive to that.
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,
Rance J. Garrison