Whether Democrat or Republican, the president will be confronted with daunting and unavoidable challenges and choices. And he will have to find a way to bridge partisan divides to address any of them.
Hurricane Sandy brutally exposed the vulnerability of a city that is the commercial heart of this country. Other coastal cities are also at risk. The president will have to face up to the implications of increasingly extreme weather patterns, whatever their cause. Doing nothing and hoping for the best is not an option.
Much of our infrastructure from bridges to power grids to gas lines is decaying or unable to meet the needs of the future. With interest rates at record lows, now is the time to act. The longer we wait the more costly the rebuilding will be.
The economy will probably continue to improve and millions of jobs will be created whoever is in the White House. But the underlying structural problem is lack of workforce readiness for the global economy. And millions of people who are working simply do not earn enough to make ends meet. We need to develop a high skill, high wage economy. That means major investment in education on a level we have not seen in decades.
We have an aging population. Ten thousand people reach retirement every day. Immigration is helping to mitigate the problem. But our president will need to have the courage to tell older Americans the truth about changes that are needed in Social Security and Medicare if we are to maintain a viable program for the next generation and not bankrupt the country.
Overseas, our president can stand firm for our values while also affirming that it is a mark of a nation’s strength, not weakness, to admit mistakes. Donald Shriver’s Honest Patriots: Loving a Country Enough to Remember its Misdeeds should be studied by every American political leader.
On the eve of this election, I re-read A Call to Community that was launched at the National Press Club in 1996 by Initiatives of Change and its partners with the support of Democrat and Republican leaders. Its concluding lines are just as relevant today:
To build this new American community, we must empower individuals to take charge of their lives and take care of their communities…This approach calls us to a new concept of partnership and responsibility. It means:
- Listening carefully and respectfully to each other and to the whole community
- Bringing people together, not in confrontation but in trust, to tackle urgent needs
- Searching for solutions, focusing on what is right rather than who is right
- Building lasting relationships outside our comfort zone
- Honoring each person, appealing to the best qualities in everyone, and refusing to stereotype
- Holding ourselves, communities and institutions accountable where change is needed
- Recognizing that the energy for fundamental change requires a moral and spiritual transformation in the human spirit