Dear President Trump:
The Daily Lectionary readings today speak about truth.
The psalmist counsels, “Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.” (Psalm 34:13) In the Old Testament reading, the people do not remain true to God, even though God is faithful to them. (Jeremiah 2:1-13) In the Gospel reading, Jesus stays true to his word to heal the royal official’s son. (John 4:46-54) In the Epistle reading, Paul warns against suppressing the truth. (Romans 1:18) Finally, the psalmist begs: “Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.” (Psalm 25:5)
In Trump: The Art of the Deal you write: “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration – and a very effective form of promotion.”
While this may have worked in crafting business deals, I question whether it will work well for you as president. It will no doubt be difficult to claim “truthful hyperbole” as the high ground, while alleging “fake news” when others make claims that you believe to be exaggerated.
People want to hear the truth. Being truthful builds trust. You said as much in the same book when you wrote, “The other thing I do when I talk with reporters is to be straight. I try not to deceive them or to be defensive, because those are precisely the ways most people get themselves into trouble with the press.”
Healing justice for our nation begins with telling the truth about the past – as we have observed with truth and reconciliation commissions in other countries. Some, like Fania Davis and Ronald C. Slye, have proposed similar processes for the United States. I urge you as president to support such efforts.
Abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth once observed: “Truth is powerful and it prevails.”
Mr. President, if you wish to build a great legacy, be truthful in your words and transparent in your actions. Seek truth for all. You hold a high office. The standard is high as well.
J. Daryl Byler