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Friday, January 23, 2009

Smart President

Dear Victorious,

Now that President Obama is in office, there is much talk about all of the ambitious plans he has. Expectations are very high for this president, and that perhaps the real risk is that the American public will have unrealistic expectations of him. What do you think is the smartest thing President Obama could do?

E.C. – Hershey, PA

Dear E.C.

By unrealistic expectations, I assume you mean that the American public could have expectations of Mr. Obama that are too high. This could mean expectations that are higher than he actually set for us himself. Or it could mean expectations that are higher than he can actually deliver on. It could also mean expectations that are so loaded with our own perspective, biases and persuasions that they have little relevance to what he actually promised.

No matter how you put it though, unrealistic expectations would ultimately translate into disappointment. So what you’re really saying is that there may be the real risk that the American (and world) public will be disappointed with Mr. Obama. So what is the smartest thing Mr. Obama could do as President? Let me first ask --- and answer another question.

What is the stupidest thing Mr. Obama could do? The answer to that question is probably multiple choices. But my picks for the most stupid would one of two possibilities. First, he could squander his influence. The man has proven to be very influential. When he speaks, the world listens. This is truer than perhaps for anyone else ever in the history of the world. Second, he could play to the risk of disappointing people. In other words, he could try to please everyone … making decisions based on what he thinks would satisfy the expectations that people have of him. Either of these options would be incredibly lame. And stupid.

So what is the smartest thing Mr. Obama could as President? That’s a very good question. It too has multiple answers.

First, as a Christ-follower, I would personally like to see him get on his knees. What would it be like for a nation to see its President pray? How impactful could it be if our President would himself lead prayer in public for his nation? He could literally teach a nation how to be men and women of God. Frankly, I couldn’t imagine a smarter move. Or a riskier one.

Secondly, it strikes me that Mr. Obama has proven himself capable of moving a nation. His candidacy and presidency have so far been about superlatives. He registered the most voters, caused the best voter turnout, raised the most in campaign donations, garnered the largest attendance at an inauguration, etc. Let’s face it; this man has the ability to move people to action. The American public has shown that we are willing to take action and make sacrifices for this man. He’s already calling people to volunteer, to serve, etc.

So what could he do with this power? I think he should use it to move people to pay. We need to pay our debts. We need to pay for services. We need to pay for the poor.

Imagine if Obama asked Americans to change their wills, leaving their estates to satisfy a portion of the national debt? (A New York hotelier recently died and left billions to dogs. Imagine the impact if she had left it to strengthen America instead.)

Mr. Obama could ask retirees who have sufficient income to voluntarily forfeit their Social Security entitlement. (Bill Gates will be entitled to collect Social Security in a few years!)

He could ask affluent Americans to voluntarily pay extra taxes. Imagine if it became fashionable to pay more taxes to strengthen America. The man can raise billions to fund a Presidential campaign – where Americans pony up cash to fund change. Is there a more fundamental change than America being fiscally sound?

The Obama presidency could entice corporations to source goods and services onshore. He could call a meeting of American industry titans, and implore them to stop moving jobs overseas. He could encourage them, ask them to be patriots and move the jobs to Detroit or New Orleans instead.

Obama could stand in Congress and beat a dead horse about eliminating earmarks (or “pork”) in government spending. He could force federal agencies to stop wasting money. He could reward good behavior --- putting government employees who come up with good money ideas in the news … giving them recognition nationally.

This country is in a huge financial mess. Someone is going to have to lead us out of it. The smartest thing President Obama could do is to lead us out of it. He could make it a relevant issue and cause for every single American. More importantly, he could show every American how each of us could contribute to the solution. And lastly, he could teach us to celebrate those fiscal victories --- by making each of them a very big deal.

So there you have it. What is the smartest thing President Obama can do? Create a new definition of godly leadership. Call the country to fiscal accountability in all respects. Frankly, I think if he only accomplished those two things, his presidency would go down as the most effective in the history of our nation!

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