I feel obligated to write about the election. I should want to, right? I should feel joy, relief, or anger and disappointment, depending on my vote. I did vote, but I just feel slightly sad. I think it is that the election highlighted how divided our country is, not by political party, but by the gap in individual wealth, education, race, even hope. The election results and some of the talk by the candidates made me feel that this gap is growing, and that the crowd is growing angry on both sides.
So I decided to think about what I would do if I were President Obama and Mitt Romney to cheer myself up. It is always fun to imagine you were king… or queen, in my case.
If I were Obama, I might ask Romney to join my team. Romney showed me up in the debate about the economy. He has good ideas, is a reasonable man, and has proven he can broker a deal better than anyone else I currently have working with me. We might not agree on approach, but we definitely agree that we need to get the job done. It’s looking ugly out there, and like Romney, I am a good and patriotic man who really wants to make America stronger and individual lives better. We share a purpose, and together could do great things.
If I were Obama, I would let people know how valuable Hillary Clinton has been to me and the country, how hard she has worked without getting much recognition for her tireless efforts in a world that is not always welcoming, that does not always want to hear her message. I barely mentioned her during the entire campaign. Her husband had to remind us all about her at the Convention. That was wrong. I would tell her that.
If I were Obama, I would look to Franklin Roosevelt’s leadership leading up to World War II for a model on how to attack the education problem in the U.S. At the time, we were ranked 18th in military might and were just coming out of the Great Depression. Today, our education system is ranked poorly as well, and our economy is weak. We were a people who had resisted going to war, as today we resist making the changes needed to turn the school system around. Within days of each other, Japan and Germany declared war on us. If we think of the desperation Americans must have felt, it might be similar to how families feel whose children are suffering in failing schools. There is no hope. If I were Obama, I would continuously ask Americans to help solve this problem, volunteer their time in schools, get innovative about how to keep kids engaged, use the talent in their businesses to inspire young people to lift themselves up. This is already happening, due to individual conviction and compassion, but it needs to be on a grander scale. I would demand that the unions to desist and bring the teachers together to figure out better ways to change the course of the lives they touch. I would be in neighborhoods where the schools are failing, personally telling parents how to get and stay involved, demanding that they step up, that they get creative too, that they take responsibility. I would talk to kids and remind them that it is always really up to them to make the right choices, study, not give up on themselves even if everyone else seems to. I would insist that communities help parents stay involved with day care and more. I would turn Teach for America or similar programs into a type of military service with similar benefits that increase with each year of service and measures of student success. I would demand as much out of teachers as I demand of our military, because this may be our next battleground.
At least that’s where I’d start this morning. So much to do…
Romney is actually a lucky man. He has more options. He has time to rejuvenate his spirit after a grueling campaign. He can find a quiet beach or sit by a fire in a mountain cabin and ponder his next step. But he is a man, it seems, who likes to work. So my guess is that if I were Romney, my quiet respite would be quite brief.
If I were Romney, I might consider an offer from the President to help turn the economy around. If I were Romney, my guess is I would be fairly confident that I could do a better job than those currently at the helm. I might think it my patriotic duty.
I might start personally taking over neighborhoods one at a time and turning them around – teaching their people to start and manage businesses, transform schools, engage parents. If I were Romney, I’d have money, the time, connections, the ability to raise more money, and the chance to inspire others to join me.
I might look for my next great business venture, because to me, building a company from scratch is tremendously fun – like skydiving or golf or drinking fruity rum drinks by the beach is to other people.
I might return to my church community, since the individuals who know me there recognize my generosity of spirit, time and energy. I have nothing to prove with them. They keep me grounded.
I might join forces with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or Bill Clinton to save the world. You don’t have to be President to leave your mark on history, to be a hero.
I might thank my lucky stars I didn’t win.