The 2012 election may feel like it ended ages ago but the president’s second term is still a month away from starting. On Monday, January 21 President Barack Obama will deliver his second inaugural address from the steps of the Capital. A potentially term-defining speech, the president should take the opportunity to commit himself and his administration to a second-term that will rise above politics and work to help Americans moving forward.
Without further ado, here are eight things I think the president has to mention on the first day of his second term:
1) Extremism is The Problem and the Extremism is Coming From the Right.
President Obama has already threatened House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that, should the fiscal cliff not be resolved, he will shame the Republicans nationally and publically in his inaugural address. Regardless of fiscal cliff negotiations, Obama should address the blatant obstructionism coming from the political right but without castigating the whole party.
Obama should speak to the problem of extremism and be clear that enforcing unwavering ideological purity at the cost of meaningful compromise is no way to govern a country and results in domestic suffering and damage to our image abroad. The president should not hesitate in calling out the Tea Party fringes of the Republican Party for their refusal to negotiate even within their own party and point to the damage that they’ve done. Obama should also make a plea for compromise and negotiation to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Boehner – pointing out that their effort to make him a “one-term president” failed and that the American people have rejected their form of “scorched earth” politics.
In his second inaugural address Obama should demand that Republicans come to the table and exercise their responsibility to the American people – to govern effectively and represent those who elected them rather than the moneyed interests and political orthodoxy of their most extreme fringes.
2) Gun Control
The recent tragedies in Newtown, Conn., and Webster, N.Y., have only served as a grim finish to a year filled with bloody massacres at the hands of psychotic murderers. Debates over gun control have reached a heated pitch and multiple proposals are already being discussed in anticipation of the next Congress getting underway.
Whatever the final package of reforms is, President Obama’s voice will inevitably enter the conversation. Obama should take the initiative to lead from the middle, calling for pragmatic reforms such as normalizing the background and mental health check process while side-lining polarizing policy suggestions like a new assault weapons ban or putting armed guards into elementary schools.
Coming out ahead of the respective political camps and calling for no-nonsense reforms that will keep guns out of the hands of criminals without attacking legal gun owners’ rights would help heal the nation’s scars rather than further divide us over gun politics.
3) Serving Our Veterans
With the end of the Iraq War and the committed draw-down of forces in Afghanistan, the United States is set to see a record number of veterans coming home from abroad and attempting to transition back into civilian life after years of war.
The president should remind Americans that we all owe a debt of gratitude to our veterans and must continue to help them return to a welcoming home full of opportunity. Michelle Obama’s “Joining Forces” initiative, coupled with the president’s executive order on veteran hiring, has done a great deal to east the transition process. But many veterans, particularly disabled veterans and young enlisted soldiers, are still suffering record unemployment and struggling to acclimate and adjust to coming home. Obama should remind us that it will remain a top priority for his administration to ensure that all of our heroes are given every opportunity and gratitude on their return home.
4) Investing in Innovation
Obama knows better than most that the economy was and remains at the forefront of everyone’s mind. While the unemployment rate is steadily decreasing and jobs are trickling back into the economy, some jobs are never coming back.
The need to invest in the future now is more important than ever – a point Obama has made several times during his first term and on the campaign trail. The American economy will have to lead in new ways and that will require the development of new industries, new training programs, and a new labor and talent pool. Renewable energy, green technology, and high tech services are the future of the American manufacturing industry and Obama should publicly commit to advancing these and other American interests in domestically and globally in his second term.
5) Invest in Our Future Generations
Where America used to lead the world in manufacturing, research, and education a lack of investment and decades of negligence has led to us falling woefully behind in a number of areas – from how we teach our children to the quality of our research and products.
As Baby Boomers retire and Generation X/Y/Next become the majority of the work force, the president should commit to a more aggressive vision for bringing America back to the international leadership role it once held. Investment in education, science, and infrastructure are not only necessary, they’re long overdue. Obama should paint this not as a second stimulus or economic jump-starter (though it will be) but as an absolutely vital element of America’s future competitiveness.
Young Americans are ready to work, lead, and represent American interests at home and abroad. The next generation of entrepreneurs, scientists, and business leaders are already here and they want to ensure that they and their children will have the support necessary to succeed. Young Americans voted overwhelmingly for President Obama’s vision of America’s future and it is crucial that he acknowledge that and commit to its realization in his address.
6) Climate Change Matters
After a year of crazy storms, hurricanes, and weather phenomena it’s time for Obama to stop pretending that our changing climate isn’t an issue that impacts our economy. Estimated damage from Superstorm Sandy has already topped $20 billion. Government subsidies of flood insurance for high-risk areas encourages development in dangerous areas only guarantees that damage and death will continue as seas inevitably rise.
Although his answer in November seemed to dismiss the reality of pursuing climate change legislation such as a carbon tax early in his second administration, Obama needs to make clear that climate change is an issue that must be addressed and that his administration will pursue action in his second term.
7) Immigration Reform Will Happen
Despite winning Latinos by over 70% in the 2012 election, President Obama has been unsuccessful in achieving meaningful immigration reform. The DREAM Act ran into Republican obstruction in 2011 and while Obama pushed through some reforms via executive order it has done little to advance the ball on comprehensive immigration reform. In the meantime, Obama’s administration has been deporting undocumented workers at a very rapid (some might call “record-breaking”) pace.
The president should take the opportunity of his inaugural address to echo his call for unity that he delivered after the election and commit to comprehensive immigration reform to ensure that those wanting to live in America are given the opportunity to do so legally and with dignity.
8) Pragmatism Over Politics
Despite pushing through monumental legislation such as health care reform and the Dodd-Frank wall street reform act, President Obama’s first term has been marred by an image of a leader who backed down when confronted by Republican opposition and failed to flex his muscle to push through his agenda.
Obama should send a clear message that the days of obstruction for obstruction’s sake are over. Not only have the American people soundly rejected the Republican strategy of just saying no, they have re-endorsed the President’s vision for America.
The president’s second term has to focus on promoting legislation that has popular support and not shying away from using the bully pulpit to bring fringe opposition voices to task. Although he will and should paint himself as the “Great Compromiser,” Obama must make it clear that anyone who wants to play politics with America’s future is going to be met aggressively by an administration and a president with a zero tolerance policy for political nonsense.
What do you think the President should say during his second inaugural address? Let me know in the comments!