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Day 101 – Take Two, Mr. President, for Your Next 100 Days.

Day 101 – Take Two, Mr. President, for Your Next 100 Days.

Image by bridgevillepennsylvania

Dear Mr. President,

Today you can start fresh, Day 101.

We remain distraught by your first hundred days, but hopeful our institutions and the world will withstand your presidency until Congress changes in 2018. Until then, the majority of informed citizens in the United States will rage, organize, and resist.  You will continue to fail until you can be defeated at the polls – a footnote of blight in the long arc of human progress.

There is another path. You could change direction. Today would be a good day to start. Your presidency is young enough, your political beliefs flexible enough, and your marketing instincts strong enough to change, starting with your next 100 days.

Your recent reflections suggest you may be coming to appreciate the complexity and responsibility of leadership of our great democratic experiment. Over the next few months we will see (and judge) your ability to learn, adapt, and inspire. Your tasks will not be easier, but your results could be improved.

As a businessman, you have been trained to value the “bottom line.” Numbers and financial data measure your performance in competition with others. It’s a clean and clear standard. Money isn’t only a reward, it’s the yardstick of success. The people you negotiated with did so based on a common goal: to make money.

Many business leaders bring this measure to careers in government without realizing it doesn’t translate. You aren’t just learning a new job. You have entered a totally different world.  There is no bottom line, there are only messy, complicated, life and death issues with no easy answers. Many of the people you meet will negotiate with a commitment to different goals. They care about their children, the earth, life itself. Money is not the measure or the tool.

I would offer a different measure for you to consider, if you want to lead and succeed as president.

The United Nations General Assembly has suggested nations’ measure their success based not on the “gross national product,” but on a “Gross National Happiness (GNH)” index.  Before you reject this standard, remember that the Preamble to the Constitution you pledged to honor describes the purpose of government as providing citizens the right to pursue happiness. The mission of the organization you lead is to provide the governmental structure that supports “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (extraordinary accumulation of wealth and power wasn’t mentioned).

One version of the GNH has multiple indicators in areas such as psychological well-being, health, time use, education, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards. Progress on these happiness indicators would revolutionize your administration. Your second 100 days, and the chance for another 1,361 days in office could be very different.

What policies might flow from the focus on happiness, rather than money as a bottom-line?

  • Protection of the earth, bio-diversity, and healing the ecosystem of the planet
  • Embracing cultural diversity and using the “bully pulpit” to celebrate the rich heritage of all people
  • Support for worker safety, minimum and fair wages for work, and preparing people for 21st century jobs
  • Setting policies supporting democracy – advancing voter rights for all eligible citizens and increasing voter access, non-partisan voter education, rolling back “Citizens United,” establishing Congressional districts logically, not politically
  • Providing universal, high quality health care
  • Honoring the rights of women to control their own bodies, and encouraging policies that protect the rights of every individual
  • Providing universal high quality public education
  • Using all of the tools of leadership, including diplomacy, to encourage world peace

…and, pretty much, the opposite of everything you are doing now.

Day 101, is it time for a “do-over?” We have proposed that before way back on day 34. There is another way to measure success that isn’t about greed, destruction of the planet, war, disease, and hatred. This other way advocates for policies supporting the pursuit of happiness for all Americans.

I know you won’t read this, and if you read it, you won’t care. A lifetime of living in a gold leafed cage and drawing your sense of value from your wealth cripples your ability to understand another set of values. You may have heard of an extraordinarily wealthy prince, richer than you, who did become aware – Gautama Buddha. He changed, and then he changed the world.

You can change. Perhaps you’d rather be remembered for kindness and competence rather than cruelty and ineptitude.  Day 101, we remain angry, appalled, and vigilant. We will continue to resist.

But, we can always hope. Change is possible, and that would be a very good day.



Day 100 – In Which You and Your Administration Are Likened to a Car Crash.

Day 100 – In Which You and Your Administration Are Likened to a Car Crash.

Photograph by jbraine

Dear Mr. President,

I’ll try not to comment on today being your one-hundredth day in office. I agree with you that it is a useless metric (although it’s curious that you want to simultaneously have us believe your first 100 days were the best…Ever!). It’s a bit like someone remembering a car accident that occurred 100 days ago – a milestone of a bad moment that’s otherwise devoid of any meaning, other than things could (or should) have been different.

What is noteworthy, however, is your admission that the job was harder than you had thought, and that you miss your old life. That’s like the back-seat driver, used to being chauffeured everywhere, admitting he should have never been allowed to sit behind the wheel in the first place, and who knew those roads would have been so difficult to maneuver?!?

And, as with any car accident caused by an incompetent driver, someone else is to blame. Congress is an easy punching bag – eternally unpopular, even though your party controls both houses, making excuses of failure harder to swallow. And how about those pesky judges – how dare they interpret the Constitution in a manner inconsistent with your ever-inconsistent opinions, issuing rulings that can’t fit in a tweet!  Sure, they’re the reason you failed. Even your own handpicked (or picked by your donors) Supreme Court nominee called your attacks on judges disheartening. God bless our founding fathers, who designed our Constitution to stop presidents who either don’t understand it or think they can ignore it.

But there’s one place you did succeed beyond your past rhetoric: you’ve signed a record 78 executive orders to date (although yesterday Politico called them “mostly theater” since you’re incapable of passing any substantive legislation, which, given the appalling scope of some of your plans, such as leaving tens of millions of people without healthcare, isn’t necessarily a bad thing). You’re trying to impress upon us that your executive orders mean you’re a man of action. But we recall the scathing insults you heaped upon the last President for his (lesser!) use of executive orders as an abuse of power. You didn’t think we’d forget, did you?

And yet we still have another 1,360 days to go. Be careful, Mr. President. You have 320 million people in the back seat; you refuse to look at either the map or the rear-view mirror; you won’t use the brakes or steering wheel; and it’s a long, unknown road ahead.



Day 99 – Your First 100 Days…of Failing the Libraries, Arts and Public Broadcasting. Hugely.

Day 99 – Your First 100 Days…of Failing the Libraries, Arts and Public Broadcasting. Hugely.

Photograph by ellenm1 of an image by Edward Curtis, “The Blanket Weaver – Navaho”

Dear Mr. President,

I loved that Ivanka tweeted her support for libraries and librarians on April 13,

This #NationalLibraryWeek, we honor our libraries and librarians for opening our eyes to the world of knowledge, learning and reading!”

 As a school librarian/media specialist for many years, this brought joy to my heart. I love it when people recognize the value and importance of libraries and skilled librarians in our world. They provide free resources to everyone. They provide access to employment resources and training, access to technologies, and support for literacy and learning. They support children learning to read, the most important skill for a successful life. Libraries are – or should be – the center of our democracy. A free society needs information from multiple sources, from multiple viewpoints.

However, your America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again cuts all federal funding to the Institute of Museum and Library Services. How can this happen? You complain about all the “fake” news that’s out there. Librarians help. They teach students to look at sources of information and evaluate them. Librarians teach students to use multiple sources to fact-check information. They teach students to be wise and wary consumers of information. They are leaders in the information field. Yet, many of those positions are being cut due to lack of funding.

Check out your local public library. Talk with a librarian. You will find many great resources there. And while you’re at it, take a stroll through the Library of Congress, an incredible, national treasure.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other part of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Museums also play an extremely important role in preserving our national heritage. You live in a city (during the week anyway) that has an abundance of wonderful museums. So do I. My local art museum is having a significant exhibit of the works of Edward Curtis, who photographed more than 80 Native American tribes. Our libraries are collaborating and supporting this exhibit by having a regional book discussion of Timothy Eagan’s book about Curtis, Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher. And we don’t even have to go to Washington, D.C. to be a part of this. Events like this happen all across our nation in big cities and small, thanks to funding from local, state, and federal sources.

And while I’m at it, how can you propose to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities? Look at the above example, right here in my community. This is art, this is humanity at its finest, working together, sharing resources, involving communities in activities that build community and understanding and appreciation.

And then there is the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Have you ever watched a Ken Burns’ documentary? He is making a new series on the Vietnam War. You grew up with that war, perhaps had friends that died in that war. Me, too. Ken Burns’ work has a place and a following on PBS, and it is too important to let that go. Ken Burns is our national storyteller. PBS is an American institution that needs financial support. Have you watched The Civil War or The Statue of Liberty? Have you watched his National Parks series, to learn about the exquisite legacy of people like John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt, who sought to preserve natural beauty?

I prefer to preserve beauty over more military spending.

All these organizations help us to be better human beings. We all need help with that.



Day 98 – Your First 100 Days…Of Failing Women. Tremendously.

Day 98 – Your First 100 Days…Of Failing Women. Tremendously.

Image from the Trump Meme Generator (try it!)

Dear Mr. President,

You tweeted:  “No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, & it has been a lot (including S.C.), media will kill!”

However, even though you say it’s ridiculous, your team sent out a statement titled, “President Trump’s 100 Days of Historic Accomplishments.”  The statement just seems to be all about the numbers: how many resolutions and executive orders you have signed, and the number of laws enacted by Congress since you have been on the job. You seem focused on showing, objectively, how much more you have done than past presidents by looking at the number of times you have put pen to paper. But the numbers don’t really mean that much, Mr. President. It’s what is behind those numbers, the substance of those resolutions, orders and laws, that really matters. And that is where you fall way short for so many of us.

But for the purposes of this letter and for the women who read and share these letters every day, I want to focus on your focus on Women’s Rights. The following is from an article published by Fortune Magazine on April 25 exploring your stance toward women and how that is illustrated by what you have and have not done during your “historic” 100 days.

“Despite the first daughter’s advocacy for equal pay, the Trump administration has not yet enacted any new legislation dedicated to promoting it. Indeed, the president appears to have taken a step in the opposite direction, quietly signing an executive order to undo President Obama’s the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order. In doing so, Trump eliminated a requirement for federal contractors to provide employees with basic information about their pay, including hours worked, overtime earnings, and any pay deductions, one of the few ways the government could evaluate whether companies are paying men and women equally.

Family leave

Despite making a number of campaign promises about instituting a federal leave policy, the Trump administration has taken no concrete steps to advance a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program.

Child care

In his “Contract with the American Voter,” which contains an action plan for Trump’s first 100 days in office, the new president pledged to immediately introduce the Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act. The act “allows Americans to deduct childcare and eldercare from their taxes, incentivizes employers to provide on-site childcare services and creates tax-free dependent care savings accounts for both young and elderly dependents.” The administration has not yet introduced the proposal to Congress.

Women’s health

One of Trump’s first actions as president was to reinstate and expand the so-called “global gag rule,” which prevents recipients of U.S. foreign aid from offering any services relating to abortion–even if they do so with separate funding sources. The president has also signed a bill to overturn protections for Title X grantees, allowing states to block funding for abortion providers–including Planned Parenthood.

Violence against women

While the new administration has made no tangible progress in this area so far, the president has proposed Justice Department cuts that could affect Violence Against Women Act, which serves survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence and supports efforts to reduce sexual assault. The Hill reported in January that Trump is considering eliminating the Office on Violence Against Women altogether.”

Mr. President, the article is a clear reminder that you have done nothing in the area of women’s rights in your first 100 days. As Catherine Pearson writes in the Huffington Post, you have pushed for policies that roll back protections for women’s health and safety, and made comments that prove your “tremendous respect” for women to be hollow.

So you might be wearing out the nub on some White House pens, but what are you really accomplishing? Doesn’t seem like folks have a lot of faith in you or your ability to get things done since the one number your White House statement did not mention was your approval rating. Some bad new there: your approval rating is at 42% with just days left until you reach your 100-day mark. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Sunday, that’s the lowest for any president at this point in their term since pollsters began tracking it in the 1940s. former President Barack Obama had a 69% approval rating at this juncture of his first term.

Time to stop adding brackish water to the swamp, Mr. President. Stop making meaningless comparisons to past presidents and show us why we should believe that your next 100 days are going to be any better than your first.



Day 97 – Thanks For Helping Some of Us Define Our Own Personal Line in the Sand.

Day 97 – Thanks For Helping Some of Us Define Our Own Personal Line in the Sand.

Photograph by Bernard Spragg, NZ

Dear Mr. President,

You are making quite a mess.  Your first 100 days has been laughable, or tragic depending on how much a person values the democratic republic of the United States.  This letter is to you, yet it is not about you.  It is about the people, the ones you are supposed to be serving.

One of the great lessons, maybe the greatest lesson a person can learn is to define the line which, when another crosses it, they take action.  The personal “red line.”  What will you accept?  What is too much?  What is the straw that breaks your proverbial camel’s back?  How far is the bridge that is too far?  What will you allow another to do to you?  What won’t you allow?

Some people learn this in high school, many after in early adulthood.  Perhaps it’s a domineering boss, an unhealthy relationship, an absent landlord or a dysfunctional dynamic with a family member.  At some point, you had enough, you had the tough conversation, confronted this person who was making your life awful, and perhaps severed the relationship altogether.  And that’s good.  That’s how we learn.  And the next time a person in our life begins to manifest these same tendencies, when we recognize the talk, the feelings, the abuse, we are wiser.  We don’t wait.  We act quickly.  We call it out.  We have learned and won’t get fooled again.

So thank you president 45.  You are providing millions of people a chance at real, authentic learning.  With each lie, with each stumble and bumble, with every promise which is shown hollow, with each self-serving executive order and crony appointment, you are teaching us.  You are burning folks, getting greedy with your cons, and while it’s gonna sting, we will be less likely to put our hands on a hot stove twice.  You are giving us a chance to draw a line in the sand which we will guard forever more.

The toughest lessons often come with some pain.  The discomfort of learning is well documented.  We are living it now.  And we will heal.  And grow because of it.




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