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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.