My class of first-year students studied presidential elections this semester and, anticipating Joe Biden’s inaugural, have some advice for the president-elect and some suggestions for him. The president-elect should start by expressing gratitude to the American people for voting in record numbers in November. A call for unity is a must. He should reach out to acknowledge the achievements of the previous administration, and emphasize that he is the president of all states, blue and red.
The speech should lay out his priorities. COVID-19 must be ended. After the killing of George Floyd this summer, equity, race and inclusion are issues that continue to face us and must be addressed. Climate change, clean water (no more Flints) and protecting our forests need to be on the agenda. The students would like to hear the framework of the president’s foreign policy.
We need, and Biden should give, an idealistic message — a call to act together, recognizing change sometimes requires sacrifice.
Some lines Biden might borrow from the students are:
- “Hello, fellow Americans! I am humbled that you chose me as your president. The task is great and the challenges are many.”
- “I ask you to think what you believe is possible. I stand before you with big dreams for this country and its people with hope and determination to make those dreams come true.”
- “The picture is not always rosy. Americans fight. Americans disagree. From the dinner table to the floor of the Senate, political discussion is a part of American life. We need to have conversations with people different from ourselves and learn where they come from and what experience and knowledge they bring.”
- “What I plan to do in my first term won’t solve many problems ingrained in the system completely; however, it will take a step in the right direction. Law enforcement is deeply flawed and needs to be abolished in favor of a more inclusive system. As it stands now, the poor and diseased are held down by the system and forced to suffer for the benefit of the rich and powerful. I aim to stand against the systemic discrimination against women and people of color. My administration will try its hardest to improve the lives of the LGBTQ+ community.”
- “I ask for you to stand by me these next four years and help me build this country to what I know it can be.”
Jim Scheibel, a former mayor of St. Paul, is Professor of Practice in the Management, Marketing and Public Administration Department, Hamline University. He is a former director of both AmeriCorps VISTA and the Senior Corps.
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