WASHINGTON, DC (CNN) – President Barack Obama is asking his Cabinet to spell out what progress they’ve made over the past eight years while offering incoming Republican officials their view of a path forward.
The “exit memos” released Thursday offer a view of Obama’s accomplishments, but also a map of areas where President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to change course.
In a letter addressed to Americans that accompanied the memos, Obama wrote that during his first inaugural address: “I told you that day that the challenges we faced would not be met easily or in a short span of time — but they would be met.”
“After eight busy years, we’ve met them — because of you,” Obama wrote.
He detailed a litany of achievements, from reviving the US economy to passing Obamacare to securing diplomatic agreements on climate change and Cuba — achievements he hopes will come to form his presidential legacy.
Those issues are at risk under Trump, however, and in his letter Obama insisted that the progress his administration has made wasn’t solely attached to him.
“We will have to move forward as we always have — together,” Obama wrote. “And I’m confident we will. Because the change we’ve brought about these past eight years was never about me. It was about you.”
Secretary of State John Kerry’s memo, released early Thursday, offers a broad defense of the President’s foreign policy, noting signature achievements such as the Iran nuclear deal, the resumption of diplomatic relations with Cuba, and the Paris climate agreement.
The memo also touches on the state of US relations with allies and adversaries alike, including Russia, whose “unprecedented cyber intrusions and its military intervention in Syria,” Kerry said, “have also posed significant challenges to both our bilateral relationship and to international stability, and it is critical that we remain vigilant against these and other threats, even as we look for areas where it is in our interest to cooperate with Russia.”
While never mentioning Trump by name, Kerry cautions against some of the isolationist impulses the President-elect has promoted, including a rejection of most trade deals, and a disinclination towards getting involved in foreign conflicts.
“In this time of great uncertainty in the world, it is not surprising that some Americans want to turn inward and search for ways to separate our own safety and prosperity from that of the international community,” Kerry wrote. “But it is folly to think we can build a more secure and prosperous future by hiding from the world or by severing our connections to it. International challenges must be confronted with honesty, determination and confidence — not isolation.”