One week after the historic election of Barack Obama, what’s next? With our notoriously short attention spans and famous proclivity to savage leadership figures before they’ve even changed their business cards, will Americans give the new president a chance to get his administration established before passing judgment? “Change” was the mantra of the election season, but those of us who have practiced institutional change professionally know that real change takes a very long time.
What are the real items on the change agenda for the United States? Beyond the sound bytes and debate points and empty campaign rhetoric, what kinds of change will produce lasting positive effects on our society, economy and ability to restore this nation’s good name in the larger global community?
You may have many different thoughts on this, and please share them with this blog by sending your comments about the agenda for action to firstname.lastname@example.org
For myself, right now I believe that these items must be top priorities for the action agenda of the Obama Administration as well as the new Congress (let’s not forget that governance is not about one person, it’s about the democratic system in action!):
1. Peace with Security: we must bring the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a speedy end, but we also have to continue ensuring both national and global security against terrorism and the threats of rogue states. A strong national defense does NOT mean conducting war; some of the most experienced military leaders I have come to know over the years are actually some of the best advocates for peaceful approaches to security and defense. President Obama will play a leading role in achieving this balance through the leaders he selects as Secretary of Defense, Directors of National Intelligence and the CIA, and all related defense and security positions.
2. Close Guantanamo, Reject Torture Permanently: One of the greatest scandals of the departing administration is its ongoing abuse of human rights in the detention center known informally as “Gitmo” and its use, indeed, active defense of the use of torture in the name of national security. This policy has been nothing short immoral, and has contributed significantly to the decline in America’s standing in the world. The U.S. must stand for the rule of law, the moral treatment of prisoners, and the absolute defense of human rights for all no matter how serious the crime.
3. Invest in Education: With so many economic problems and the huge millstone of the bailouts underway, there will be a great tendency to say that there’s no money left for “soft” programs…. like education. Balderdash. There is no better defense against terrorism than education, and there is no better economic engine than broad-based high academic attainment. At a time when so many families are stressed by the economy, layoffs, higher prices and shrinking home values, the need for more support for college tuition is considerable. Pell grants have not kept pace with tuition costs, and limitations on federal loans have driven consumers to private loans that now are increasingly troubled. Right-sizing the availability of federal aid, along with simplifying the means of obtaining aid, will be a step toward ensuring that the U.S. population continues to make educational gains. Additionally, renewing important programmatic support for programs in Math, Science and Technology, in particular, is essential to improving outcomes in those disciplines.
The list could grow, but that’s enough for one day. What else? Please let me know your thoughts.