Dear Candidate: February 9, 2007
Welcome to the most exciting time of your life. How are you feeling? Nervous? Prepared? Excited? I can only imagine what it’s like to run for President. And I can’t even think of how someone would prepare for such a journey, especially when, this time, you’re looking at a two year journey. And really, like the NFL, only one will win, and the others will only be able to say they tried.
But I’d like to mention something in passing that I believe will be very important to your success–you need to develop a vision for our country and then communicate that vision to America every chance you get.
At this point all I am hearing is responses to questions. The sound bites, particularly, seem to be only responses to various questions: “Why did you flip flop on abortion?” “Tell me about growing up black.” “How could you justify supporting the war?” “Are you really a conservative?”
I want leader with a vision. I want a President who believes in something and is willing to commit to it. I want someone who is willing to try even if it means failure, rather than someone who is simply trying not to lose. I want a President who inspires me. I will sooner vote for a candidate with a vision (even if I disagree with it) than a candidate with no vision. Without a mark on the horizon to sail towards, how will you ever be able to chart your progress. Being the most powerful person in the world (the President, I mean; no one’s running to be Bill Gates–besides there’s an incumbent running strong in most districts for that role) means you cannot simply wake up and see what’s going on and respond to it. No, you must be at the helm, guiding not just our country but the entire planet towards a vision of peace, economic growth, human rights, and stewardship. Only the President of the United States can deploy the greatest military in the world to rid nations of despots, to provide humanitarian aid for victims of natural disasters and to project power in the face of growing aggression.
I need to know how you envision using the power of your office. Where do you want to take me? Ronald Reagan had a vision. It may only have come to him accidentally after a few years in office, but he had one–end the cold war with a US victory. And today he is remembered as one of the greats.
Even if I and other Americans disagree with your vision at least we can work together to provide you NEW information you need to change your vision or we can support you as you pursue it. But we’ll know where you’re coming from and your decisions will make sense to us. For a while, I felt very comfortable that President Bush had a vision–to retaliate for 9/11 in defense of our country, to end terrorism, and to rid Iraq of its evil leader. However, now it seems likely that he has had a hidden agenda. This is very frustrating because it means that we don’t know what he’s basing his decisions on. It’s like playing “I’ve got a secret.” As a former airline pilot, I can tell you that hidden agendas skew the communication process, lead to mistakes and are usually dangerous and sometimes deadly.
If you communicate a vision to us we can help YOU help US. So, my dear Candidate, where do you want to take us? If it were me I would say something like this:
My fellow Americans: I’d like to show you something; something truly great. Can you spare a minute of your time while I tell you about the greatest nation in the world? Let me show you the America I see YOU capable of. This is the place I will take you if you elect me.
In the absence of leadership someone always fills the void. America, since the end of the cold war, is the only nation willing and able to lead the global community in the next century. We will lead. It is natural that the rest of the world would occasionally be unhappy with that leadership. That’s ok. We’re not here to be loved but to be effective. Can you see it?
We will lead from a position of duty and moral obligation, consistent with our country’s historical judeo-christian values: we will aid the oppressed, we will feed the hungry, we will stand strong against violence. We will cheer and support the underdog and we will defend those who cannot defend themselves. We cannot make democracies in places where the citizens are not willing and able to die for their own liberty. We can and will end oppression but we cannot make other countries into Mini-me. (Don’t tell me you don’t like a President who knows Austin Powers?) Can you see it?
We are in a second cold war, not against the Soviet Union this time, but against radical Islam. We will win that war. And we will do it the same way we won the first cold war–we will lead a global movement to bankrupt those nations by not just ending our need for foreign oil, but initiating a plan to end our need for oil period. I challenge every president after me to continue this multi-decade plan. We will co-opt every other global nation to begin actively pursuing and developing alternate sources of energy. I urge every American to view his or her use of energy as an act of war against terrorism. Turn off your lights. Wash your clothes less frequently, install light timers and energy efficient light bulbs, etc. Can you see it?
Move back towards the city. This saves natural resources–gas and land. I envision a new-vertical America where the infrastructure of the last 75 years is put back to use. Rebuild old homes, old strip malls, old schools. Increase property values for those in existing homes. Stop suburban sprawl. When living in the city, walk, ride a scooter or a bike. Remember, every energy saving decision helps us win Cold War II. Furthermore, in a geographically smaller community, get to know each other. Buy from the local business man. Invest your time and money in the relationships that make life worth living. Put a price tag on “eternal things.” The money you save in gas, you can spend at the local grocer or bookstore. Can you see it?
The added benefit of this policy is to the environment. Maybe global warming is real, maybe it isn’t. But we do know that no GOOD is coming from our carbon emissions. By conserving our energy and our land we behave as faithful stewards of this most beautiful country. We currently act like petulant, over-indulged children running through our resources without concern for how they are used or what effects our behavior will have on those who follow us. We are only borrowing this land from future Americans. I believe that when you borrow something you should return it in better shape than you found it. Can you see it?
The day will come when we will no longer be the economic engine that drives our global community. We must prepare for that today. It is inevitable. How will we, as Americans, handle no longer being number one? Like an aging athlete hanging on to the past, or humbly moving into a front office position to manage the team that is now made up of younger stars. China is a young star. Whether or not the current China/US economic relationship is equitable is a moot point. Tariffs and taxes will only delay the inevitable. I envision a new America, moving forward to take advantage of our creativity, ingenuity and natural magnetism to inventors. American students are moving away from engineering–that must stop. Engineering, computer and technical backgrounds are required to perpetuate our inventiveness in the types of business ventures which will foster continued economic leadership. We will be a country of “company starters,” inventors and small business owners. We will invest in the future of our creativity. And then we can continue to employ emerging markets to provide the inexpensive products our market driven economy demands. But we will humbly accept our diminishing importance to the global economic community. We will find a new place alongside the other nations which were surpassed centuries ago–the Dutch and the English. Can you see it?
There will be a national network to help finance college. Funded like Charitable Remainder Trusts, families will invest in these funds which will provide retirement income, death benefits through insurance and funding for perpetuation of these college funds in just a generation or two. College will be financially available to every American. Can you see it?
There will be a cure for cancer by 2020. America will spearhead a global commitment to research and development in order to find this cure. We value life and this disease has stolen too many of our loved ones. If we can put a man on the moon within a decade, we can find a cure for cancer–and we will. Can you see it?
Save your money. Eschew rampant consumerism. Learn to love to invest your money in the small businesses we begin to create. Develop self control. Teach your children to save and value saving over things. Deny your covetous nature. Can you see it?
There will be a flat tax. I don’t know what the percentage will be but we will find it. Over the next several years, we will have a balanced budget and we will once again become a creditor nation. Every family will contribute equally to American prosperity. The rich will not escape their burden and the poor will not be allowed to become dependent on the labor of others. Only deductions for charitable contributions will remain. Can you see it?
America will remain a melting pot. We will encourage immigration and make it easier to immigrate. However, we will insist upon assimilation. Without assimilation we are not a melting pot but rather a buffet table of options. If you want to be here, help America help you. There will be no looking back, but rather forward. Our language is English–has been since the beginning and will remain so. Learn it. But keep your family’s heritage alive at home and in your community. Teach us about it. Let the greater America reflect its smaller parts. Can you see it?
There is right and wrong. Teach your children the difference. It has been said that each generation wants its children to have it better than they did. That dream cannot practically continue forever and it shouldn’t. For I do not share that dream. My dream is not that my kids be a people who are better off. My dream is that they be better people. Teach your children to value other people. Teach them self control. Teach them responsibility. Model these things for them. If something needs doing–do it. Don’t expect others to do it for you. Teach your children to serve others. To value the process as much as the result. Slow down. Don’t run yourselves ragged driving your children to activities. Meet at the family dinner table. Protect your family time. Gather with friends and neighbors often to share your lives. European communities can teach us much about spending our time within our communities. Happiness is not the result of prosperity but the result of investing in the lives of others. We will be a happy country. Can you see it?
I see America as the World’s leader. I commit our resources–people, money and time–to providing that leadership. But we will do so while simultaneously preparing our country–its future generations and its resources–for the coming century. We will be knitted together by our common identity as a people who understand that “to whom much is given, much is expected.” We will work hard and we will play hard. We will conduct our business above reproach so that no nation may question our motives. We will be servant leaders of the global community realizing that if we make the necessary investments in the future then we will secure our future. Can you see it?
I reserve the right to learn. My essential values won’t change: God, America, Family, Service to others. But I don’t know everything and I will learn from those who know more than I. “I know that I am smart because I know that I know nothing.” And I will apply that knowledge to my vision of America. Can you see it?
Do you want to go to my America? Then let me take you. If you don’t like it, elect the other guy. This is who I am and this is my vision for our country.
So, dear Candidate, what is your vision? Mine’s a work in progress but I’m not running for President in 2008. Where do you want to take me? If you want me to buy a ticket on your ride, tell me where we’re going. The burden isn’t on me to figure it out, it’s on you to provide me a map.
Thanks for running. Just committing to the process is an act of service for other Americans. Thank you for giving me a choice. Now, make my choice easy, because I’m still an American at heart, and I usually do the easy thing.