The last two years have taken our president on a bumpy ride. Now in the midlife of his first term and the beginning of his second half, he has a chance, like anyone reaching a significant point in life’s trajectory, to reevaluate, reassess and resume a different, more effective, course. At the beginning of a new decade, I offer President Obama these six resolutions.
1. Turn up the volume.
You’ve accomplished a great deal (health care & wall street reform, the end of DADT, the avoidance of a second Great Depression, the resurgence of the stock market & the auto industry, the confirmations of two women Supreme Court justices, the START treaty, and on and on), much of it despite blind partisan resistance and the dumbing-down of our national political discussion by conservative pundits and provocateurs. However, you need to reclaim the dialogue. The inspirational orator we harkened to during the election is the guy we need to hear now: explain your actions, promote your agenda, and defy those who callously exploit the ignorance and fear of some of the people. Get your voice back!
2. Don’t let compromise become a four-letter word.
“Compromise” isn’t synonymous with “cave.” “Compromise” is synonymous with “to act like a grown-up”…or it should be. Admittedly, compromise requires a fine balance between core principals that cannot and should not be violated, and the acknowledgment that getting one’s way all the time isn’t necessarily a good thing. People of conscience can disagree and sometimes more than one perspective needs to be accommodated. In politics, compromise based on reason and integrity equals achievement, and you’ve been willing to bend in order to get things done. Don’t let anyone turn that strength into a weakness.
3. Hoist ‘em with their own petard.
God bless the Tea Party! The GOP will have its hands full when they come to town. (Thank goodness not quite as many as originally feared are going to show up — no Joe Miller, Christine O’Donnell, or Sharron Angle — although they would have added a nice dash of mayhem to the proceedings.) The GOP is feeling pretty full of themselves after the mid-term election melee, but they’re going to have to figure out what they stand for and how far they are willing to go to appease the radical fringe. Let ‘em…and then pick up the pieces.
4. Suffer fools badly.
Listening to some of the so-called debates about issues, one could be excused for thinking that too many Americans have the attention span of an avocado. The now-infamous proclamation by the Tea Party supporter — “Keep government out of my Medicare!” — might seem almost sweet in its fecklessness, but the ignorance it reveals is scary. Many ultra-conservative commentators have perfected the art of taking statements out of context, stripping them of all nuance, and regurgitating them as simplistic soundbytes intended to reduce intelligent discussion to childish interchange (“Did not!” “Did too”). Fools (and those who would exploit them) deserve to be called out. Do it!
5. Get mad.
Which brings me to the next resolution: unleash your passion! You’re known as Mr. Cool (I guess now that’s President Cool). You’ve made a science of running neither too hot nor too cold. You can see both sides of an issue and you can work with people who have different views and agendas. That’s great. Really. But you need to find your inner mad guy. Anger (I should know) isn’t just about reacting to hurt or perceived disrespect — anger is energy that, when understood and expressed properly, can fuel tremendous transformation: of individuals, of relationships, of societies. When someone abuses you, or abuses the system, get mad. Get good and mad.
6. Fill the space.
New Year’s resolutions aren’t made to honor the selves that we are — they’re made to encapsulate the selves we could be: the thinner, healthier, more prosperous, more loving and loved person we aspire to become. During the primary and the election, you dazzled us with your potential, but during the last two years, you haven’t quite filled the space. Now’s the time. One of your great talents is to learn from experience, especially from your mistakes. Mistakes, in that they hold the lessons of risk, reward and consequence, are a true blessing — too bad our previous leader never made any. Right now you seem somewhat blurred by the job — bring yourself back into focus and own the stage. It’s been toxic out there, but a new day will dawn if you resolve to re-ignite your fire.
P.S. A happy, peaceful and prosperous 2011 to all!
Photo credit: Peaco Todd