An Open Letter to Our Next President

Published: November 3, 2008

By Jim Lichtman
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Dear Mr. President-elect,

An economy in crisis, rising unemployment, needed reform in healthcare and energy, housing foreclosures, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a global reputation as unilateral bullies, and a Congress immobilized by special interests and partisan gridlock.

The American people are not just fearful of the current state of our union, Mr. President-elect, they’re angry.

They’re not only resentful of an unprecedented Wall Street bailout, they’re angry at the lack of leadership and respect Washington has shown to the people they claim to represent.

They’re angered at a Washington that seems to have traded American’s long-term interests for short-term special interests.  And they’re incensed at an ever-growing list of ethics scandals connected to those special interests.

They’re outraged to see that, in spite of a $750+ billion bailout of corporations like A.I.G., executives are having $400,000 junkets and hundreds of millions doled out for bonuses and grotesque compensation packages at taxpayer expense.

It’s been reported that more than 80% of Americans believe that the country has been on the wrong track for some time.

That means, Mr. President-elect, that you carry the burden to make things right.  With your success in the election, the one thing you will have going for you is the trust of the American people.  But that trust won’t last long if you don’t get results.

However, before you can begin to tackle anything on your “to-do” list you need to start with reforming how government operates.

Don’t just talk about transparency, be transparent.  Tell Americans what you intend to do, and report on progress or changes in strategy.

Americans need a president who doesn’t just talk about change, but is willing to practice the necessary humility to embrace ideas and actions that may differ from his own.

Americans need a president who’s not just intelligent, but uses that intelligence wisely by drawing talent from the best available sources.  This means that you will need to do more than “reach across the aisle,” Mr. President-elect.  Like Lincoln, you will need to actively pull talent from across the isle into your cabinet of advisors.

More than ever, Americans need a president who will stand up for truth and responsibility in all aspects of government; a Chief Executive who will be able to insure that everyone in government will be held accountable for their actions or inactions.

We need a president who will vigorously stand up against special interests and stand for the people’s interests.

We need the kind of presidential leadership that leads by example; the kind that is willing to put partisanship aside and work for what’s best for the country rather than a political agenda.

Americans need a president who is thoughtful, well-reasoned, decisive, and inclusive; someone who can be pragmatic as well as inspiring.  Most importantly, we need someone who can check their political ego at the front door and not be afraid to seek out and learn a better way to deal with the critical issues we face at such a critical time in our history.

In a 1962 address at the University of California at Berkeley, President John F. Kennedy said, “In a time of turbulence and change, it is more true than ever that knowledge is power… Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

Americans need to know, Mr. President-elect, that you would be willing to learn more to be more effective.

And when it comes to political decision-making, Kennedy made clear, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but the right answer.”

That is statesmanship.

And right now, Mr. President-elect, our country needs a president who has the courage to be that kind of statesman.

Right now, people need a president they can believe in again.


  1. Author

    A great letter Jim. I hope you plan to send it to Obama and I believe that of either choice he is the one that would most likely both read it–AND attempt to practice it. I am very excited to see the American people pull together to help make such an historic vote really count. People are mad, and they want change…that’s why Obama is the logical choice.

  2. Author

    Send this to all the Democrats who have disowned Joe Lieberman. To them, it’s the Democrat way or no way!

  3. Author

    Good letter. It captures what many of us have been saying for years, about Washington and California, and the immense loss of respect for the common citizen, the common voter. My wife says I am too cynical when I tell her, “There’s little point in voting in a national election. People like us do not elect Presidents; those elections are controlled and decided by big business and special interests, and the political parties they have bought and paid for. Washington is not only geographically too far away from our daily lives, it is disconnected from what common people need or care about.”

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