Bringing the Nation Together: Lessons Learned from Past PresidentsPrintable Version
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
With the 2008 general election only five months away, CNP hosted a well respected expert on elections, the presidency, and American government, Dr. David Abshire, the President of the Center for the Study of the Presidency. Articulating the thoughts expressed in his most recent book, A Call to Greatness: Challenging Our Next President, Dr. Abshire talked about the strategies and characteristics of the American presidents who were most successful in unifying the country.
Having held many high-ranking public and private sector posts throughout the tenure of his career, Dr. Abshire focused on the importance of civility to leadership and effectiveness. Civility is often mistaken for having to water down one’s deeply help beliefs, Abshire said, but that is not the case. Instead, it is the ability to reach out to people with different opinions, and to listen and communicate respectfully. This quality often times leads to success on the legislative agenda on Capitol Hill.
According to Abshire, this ability to reach across the political aisle or even to those of one’s own political party who may have differing views on an issue will be a vital quality for the next president. He or she must be able to lead in an inclusive manner, and give a sense of empowerment even to those with different views. The next president must be able to mobilize the country with a combination of Kennedy’s understanding of the perilous threat facing our nation, and Reagan’s optimism about American greatness and hope for the future.
Abshire also commented on the need for a new kind of strategic thinking in the Oval Office that takes into account the country’s greatest minds and their opinions on a vast array of issues facing the nation. In many ways, this would actually be a return to the strategic model of presidents like Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, who surrounded themselves with the smartest and most able public servants. To lead the country forward, Abshire said, the President must harness the genius of America.
Abshire emphasized the role of the Vice President in the next administration. He believes that the next Vice President should be someone able to listen to and lead the cabinet and the government more effectively, and to serve as a unifier. The new cabinet must be oriented towards bipartisanship and building consensus on Capitol Hill in order to address the major challenges looming over the country. The next president might even pick capable and talented individuals from the opposite party to serve in the Cabinet posts.
- The challenges facing our nation, ranging from Iraq to health care, will require bipartisan cooperation. The parties and politicians must work together to address these hurdles; partisanship must not impede progress.
- CNP agrees strongly with Dr. Abshire that the next President must tap into the country’s greatest minds on all different issues in order to solve the challenges facing our country in the short term, and to anticipate those issues emerging in the long-term. Maximizing intellectual resources is a key to maintaining America’s edge.