WASHINGTON — President Obama called on Americans to support President-elect Donald Trump Wednesday, saying the Obama White House was "rooting for his success in leading and unifying the country."
"One thing you realize in this job is that the presidency — or the vice presidency — is bigger than all of us," Obama said, standing beside Vice President Joe Biden in his first public remarks since Trump won an astounding victory in one of the most divisive campaigns in memory.
"Everybody is sad when their side loses an election. But we have to remember that we are all on the same team," Obama said. "This is an intramural scrimmage. We're Americans first. We're patriots first."
Obama spoke to about 300 reporters and White House staffers in a cool and cloudy Rose Garden, breaking the somber mood with some levity. He noted his pre-election prediction that the sun would come up Wednesday no matter who won, "and that is one bit of prognostication that actually came true."
Obama campaigned hard for his former secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in the last week of the campaign. He said Wednesday that he remained proud of her and her campaign. "Her candidacy and nomination was historic, and sent a message to our daughters all over the country that they can succeed and achieve at the highest levels."
The president said he was heartened by Trump's remarks early Wednesday morning, and that he hoped to move ahead in that spirit.
"It is no secret the president-elect and I have some significant differences," Obama said. But so did he and former President George W. Bush, he said, and the Bush team "could not have been more professional or more gracious."
Obama and Trump are expected to meet Thursday at the White House to discuss the transition.
As Obama returned to the Oval Office with his arm around Biden, the staffers gave him two rounds of sustained applause, many of them wiping tears from their eyes.