Memo to President-Elect Barack Obama
Congratulations on your historic victory. Now you-and we-have work to do. We asked 18 statesmen andÂ—women spanning the political spectrum to give you their best advice on the most pressing issues we face. Their answers offer wisdom and counsel to youÂ—and, by extension, to us all.
Here is a sample of six pieces of advice:
"Remind Us What It Takes To Be Great"
Anne-Marie Slaughter is dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, and author of the book The Idea that is America: Keeping Faith with Our Values in a Dangerous World.
Before we begin to tackle the specific problems America faces, your most important job is to change the national frame of mind. You must convince your fellow citizens to believe once again that America can do anything it sets its mind to.
It is not enough to repeat how great we are as a people and a nation. You must remind the country of what it takes to be great and have the courage to call for sacrifice and hard work on the part of all Americans. Read more advice.
"Be Brutally Honest"
Larry J. Sabato is director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics and the author of A More Perfect Constitution.
You thought the campaign was hard, but that was the easy part. Our country is virtually bankrupt, with a national debt exceeding $10 trillion, and another $53 trillion promised in entitlements by 2050. You need to be brutally honest with citizens from the inauguration onward. Tell them what they can't have, and what they must give up, in order to save their children's and grandchildren's future. Ask for sacrifice and service.
If you steel yourself to tell Americans what they need to hear instead of what they want to hear, history will remember you as a great president. Read more advice.
"Commit to the Environment"
Mark Tercek is president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy.
As a nation, we must recognize that the health of the environment is inextricably linked to our well-being and prosperity. Functioning natural systems and a stable climate support livelihoods, feed our families, sate our thirst, provide clean air, enrich us spiritually, and represent a legacy for future generations.
I urge you to make sustainabilityÂ—using resources no faster than they can be replenished-a guiding principle. This commitment will spark progress toward developing clean energy sources, fighting climate change, conserving our lands and waters, and rebuilding a battered economy. Your example will inspire leaders around the world to do the same. Read more advice.
Roy Romer, the former governor of Colorado, is the chair of Strong American Schools.
In your first hundred days in office, I would advise you to convene the governors and state education leaders to discuss what's needed to ensure that our children are prepared to compete in a global economy. I believe that any education plan needs these elements:
1. Rigorous academic standards that are the same for every student and are benchmarked against the highest-performing nations in the world.
2. Effective teachers in every classroom. Teachers are the greatest natural resource in education, yet we don't treat them as such. We need to enable them to improve their skills, measure their performance, and pay them more if they produce superior results or take on hard-to-staff jobs.
3. More time and support for learning. If we're going to demand more from our students and teachers, it's our obligation to give them the time they need to succeed. This will require redesigning the school day or school calendar. Read more advice.
"Prepare for the Worst"
Peggy Noonan is a former White House speechwriter and adviser to President Reagan.
Chances are good that a terror event worse than 9/11 will happen on American soil on your watch. Is this something you think about every day? If not, why not? If so, what is the biggest thing we need to hold our country together during very difficult circumstances? (Hint: Enhanced civil defense? A strengthened electrical grid? A president who tries not to divide us into slivers but to encourage us to be an America whole and entire?) Read more advice.
You can read the advice of all 18 leaders here.
If you could give Obama your best piece of advice, what would it be?
Life well shared.