Dear Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump:
Congratulations. It’s been a hard fought victory for both of you. This year’s campaign has been unprecedented on so many levels. Regardless of one’s ideological bent, I think we all can be in agreement that the stakes for this November’s election are quite high.
I write to you today, though, not as a partisan, but as the president of one of the largest organizations dedicated to helping couples and families thrive in their personal relationships. Specifically, I want to discuss with you a subject near and dear to my heart – marriage.
And if I may be so bold, I’d like to address your respective marriages. In one sense, your relationships are somewhat unique in that they have been lived out under the public spotlight.
But only somewhat unique. There is something about the nature of marriage itself – about each of our marriages – that make them very public institutions. It is why we invite so many people to our weddings. Family and friends are not merely there for sentimentality or even just to honor the bride and groom, but to serve as witnesses to and advocates for this newly formed union. At marriage, we make public declarations because our marriages literally shape – for good or bad – our own selves, extended families, our communities, and our work places because they change – for good or bad – who we are.
We are different people leaving our weddings than when we entered, and that molding and refining of our personalities and character continues throughout the duration of our unions. This public nature of marriage is one of the reasons our local government requires we officially register our unions with them.
As you aspire to the top office in this land then, each of us in some way has a stake in your marriage. It is a universal human truth that strong, healthy marriages make strong, healthy people and strong, healthy people create strong, healthy marriages. Your leadership will be significantly shaped by the health and vitality of your marriage.
The strengths and failures of your respective unions have been laid bare and dissected at great length by media representatives and ordinary citizens. Clearly, you are not alone. There is no perfect marriage. We all struggle in some form or fashion. Jesus’ admonition, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone…” (John 8:7) comes to mind.
My desire here is not to pile on. In fact I recognize that your well-publicized challenges are no different than those facing millions of other couples, save for the fact that those struggles have been broadcast to a watching country and world. Fair or not, your relationships end up being something of a teaching tool for the rest of us.
As with all of us, your past mistakes in the marital arena are behind you. All you can do is to look to the future with a renewed commitment to make your marriages as strong and healthy as they can be moving forward. You can set a wonderful example to your fellow citizens, and especially to the next generation, by honoring marriage itself. By that I mean holding sacred your marriage vows, and remaining physically and emotionally faithful to your spouse. You can make an effort to publicly affirm and praise your spouse. Forgive your spouse when they fall short, and seek forgiveness when you do. Highlight the good in them. Treasure your relationship, and make it a priority even amidst all the other important duties clamoring for your attention. I have many deep policy disagreements with our current president, but I am also an unabashed admirer of the example he and the first lady have set in their own marriage with their obvious commitment to and love for one another.
And then beyond your personal example, I implore you to seek every opportunity to praise and recognize the institution of marriage as the cornerstone of a healthy and vibrant society. Lift up the myriad benefits of marriage at a time when marriage rates are at a historic low. Many young people today see the mess our generation has made of marriage and they ask, why bother? Thus, for the first time in our history, traditional marriage is in the minority of family types today. I believe this will have a devastating impact on our society. You have the platform to show us by your personal example and tell us via the “bully pulpit” that the benefits of marriage are enormous. The reality is no single government program alone—nor even all the programs together—can replace the immeasurable good done when a man and woman live out a lifetime of marital commitment. From a policy standpoint, please concentrate on the 97% of the culture many of whom will likely marry in a traditional context. They need your help too.
I just completed a new book, “Marriage Done Right,” that touches on many of those benefits, which are both deep and wide. They include significantly better overall physical, mental and emotional health, greater financial stability, a more fulfilling sex life, and greater personal happiness. Additionally, children raised by a loving married mother and father receive an enormous head start in life, one that is impossible to replicate by even the best education or most well-intended government programs.
One of you will soon enough assume the mantle of president, with all of its accompanying responsibilities—commander in chief, leader of the free world, head of our nation’s executive branch, and so forth. But you will also take on an additional vital responsibility, that of first couple. Along those lines, I pray that your marriages will be strengthened, for your own good, for the good of our nation, and for the good of our next generation.
With all sincerity, humility and respect,