25 September, 1992
President George H. W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsyvania Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
My Dear Mr. President,
I. I write to you at a turning point in the history of this country, a time when natural disasters, such as hurricanes and floods, and human disasters, such as the AIDS epidemic, and civil lawlessness appear on all sides to testify to the troubled spirit of the land. I speak to you from my heart, and offer you my advice for re-election, at a crucial juncture in this campaign year, hoping that once again, as you have done in the past, you will spare no effort, or sacrifice in the service of the American people.
Mr. President, only a virtuous person is qualified and fit to lead this nation. Given the unfortunate, time-honored habit of our electorate to blame its incumbent leaders for any and all problems in the land, for you to be re-elected at this hour will require extraordinary courage, great self-sacrifice, and a thoroughly innovative method. I will recommend such a method to you, a principle that will renew the people's appreciation of your leadership qualities. I don't fear that you will reprimand me for speaking frankly. I urge you to do what a President with less vision would find difficult to do, and volunteer your work as Chief Executive to the nation for no monetary or in kind reward.
If you let the people of the United States know that you will return your salary, and plan to serve America purely, in the name of virtuous leadership, you will certainly be elected for the next four-year term. I guarantee your victory. What's more, by refusing a salary, you will recapture in the hearts of Americans, the virtuous spirit of Thomas Jefferson and the Fathers of Democracy, who led us through troubled times to nation-hood, without concern for personal reward. The wind of your selfless example will blow throughout the world; heads of state across the globe will be moved from greed and imitate your courage.
A President who offers his candidacy only because it is his job, his responsibility to serve at this hour in our national history, will be revered by the American people, and reelected as an unselfish, public-spirited leader whose sole concern is the well-being of his country. A President who guides the nation while refusing a salary will set a bold and clear example for every member of Congress and for public servants at all levels of government, a worthy model of unassailable, fiscal accountability. The world can only benefit from such a courageous leader. Thus I urge you to fear no personal hardship during your next four years as President. The wealth of virtue you will gain, and the admiration in the hearts of the people who will be moved by your truly righteous example, will put you in office. The peace of mind that you will gain from leading the country purely, for the sake of righteousness and a job well done, will reward you for a lifetime.
II. I wish also with this letter to emphasize the vital role of education in a Democratic nation, and urge you to make it first in your priority of concerns. Our school-children and their schools are the true wealth and talent of a nation. Providing richly for their education and training must rank among the first investments of a nation's strength. A country that invests in the knowledge and wisdom of its people prepares its citizens to make reasoned, skillful, and humane decisions. The government's investment in education will be repaid daily as the citizens respond to its policies with a love of Democracy, peace, and order. Without need for sophisticated weapons and force of arms an educated citizenry with their mature, discerning judgment and proper knowledge and values will insure a peaceful and well-defended nation.
By contrast, if young people are uneducated and rebellious, if they oppose the values and ignore the kindness of their country's leaders, they will not cherish Democratic freedom nor defend Constitutional law. The damage they will do in their ignorance by lawlessness, and by turning their backs on the values and kindness of their leaders threatens to destroy the country domestically more seriously than any foreign army could do. In this case, money spent on national defense and weapons stock-piling is money wasted; the biggest missiles and fastest fighter planes become ultimately of no use, for the most dangerous enemy will be the lack of knowledge and wisdom in the hearts of our children.
Mr. President, I write to you in this decisive phase of the campaign, on behalf of all Americans, from a wish to help you secure your rightful place at the tiller of the ship of state. I do not fear that you will find my suggestions too impractical, or my words too forthright. If you believe in my method you will certainly be reelected. I seek no recompense nor favors for my advice. I only want to elect the best President for this nation. If you accept my advice, then it will have benefited all Americans. If you do not, then I will have done my duty.
All living beings in the world, lost in confusion
Over money, sex, fame, food, and sleep, cannot get free;
A Wise One who casts off these Five Desires,
A Sage-like Ruler will become.
With best wishes for peace in the Dharma,
Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Chairperson, Dharma Realm Buddhist Association.