09th Nov 2012

President Obama's First 100 Days in the White House, again: an opportunity for a new start

The first 100 days of a president’s term in office have been a focal point of American politics since Franklin D. Roosevelt's legendary first 100 days in office at the height of the Great Depression in 1933. For President Obama, the first 100 days of his second term in the White House provide an opportunity for him to show his leadership skills and to rally America in what are truly challenging times. It is important that the President doesn’t go about business as usual, a common mistake made by political and business leaders alike. His new term in office is a brand new start with a set of unique challenges. There is a very different political and economic environment to four years ago when President Obama first entered the White House.  In 2008, the Democrats held the majority in the Senate, and the President enjoyed a healthy win in the election in terms of the popular vote. Fast forward to 2012, and the Republicans hold the majority in Senate, and the margin between the number of votes received by the elected president and his challenger is significantly less. Making an accelerated start in his first 100 days, as Roosevelt did all those years ago, is of the utmost importance for the President to lay the foundations for a successful year in 2013 and second term in the White House.

It is important that President Obama displays what true leadership is about as he embarks on his First 100 Days Journey. In his first 100 days he has the opportunity to set out a clear direction for the US, without having the political worries of getting re-elected. Essentially he needs to focus on the three key areas of strategy, leadership and results. In his acceptance speech this week, he began by speaking about moving forward. Central to this is focusing on the first 100 days and starting with the end of both the 100 day period and the term in office in mind. It’s important that he sets out and communicates what he believes a successful presidency will look like. This will involve identifying what key results he needs to achieve in the first 100 days. Throughout the election campaign there was a lot of talk about what will be the Presidents first real challenge: averting the US from falling off the fiscal cliff.  He will also need to give attention to the challenges of bringing people with him, both politicians (Republicans and Democrats) and the American people. Looking at the figures of the popular vote, Obama will need to work on getting the American people on his side in terms of his vision. He has already made a positive start on this in his acceptance speech as he urged “We are not as divided as our politics suggests” and spoke of sitting down with Governor Romney in the coming weeks to talk about how they can work together for the good of the nation.  Another area that President Obama needs to focus on is his team and determining how suited they are to the next term in office. Essentially, he needs to ask himself does he have the right people in the right roles. He will need to make tough decisions on this, quickly. With challenging times facing the President, now is not the time to be politically hamstrung. President Obama needs to display courage – one of the core traits of leadership. He will need to be courageous and must draw on his experience from the last four years to make the tough decisions quickly. So, what should we expect to see by the end of President Obama’s first 100 days of his second term? We should expect to see him set out a clear vision and strategy and to have brought politicians and the general population with him on his First 100 Days Journey. We should expect to see his team in place, the team that should support him through the presidency and help him achieve his and the goals of the nation.

Colm Flood

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