The Christian Science Monitor

Dear Mr. President: 10 letters of advice for Biden

Source: Jacob Turcotte/Staff

In 10 letters to President Joe Biden, prominent public figures in business, academia, and public life weigh in on what he should do to bring the country together at a fraught time for American democracy.

Build a working coalition 

By Leon E. Panetta
Mr. Panetta is a former director of the CIA and secretary of defense under President Barack Obama.

Dear Joe:

My deepest congratulations on your inauguration as the 46th president of the United States. Having known and worked with you for more than 40 years, I believe you are one of the most experienced and qualified individuals to serve as the nation’s commander in chief.

No one better understands the whirlwind of critical problems at home and abroad that you will be inheriting. And no one knows better how quickly you can fail if you are unable to build a bipartisan working majority in the House and Senate that will work with you to govern.

The nation cannot withstand four more years of partisan gridlock and dysfunction. In our democracy, we govern either by leadership or by crisis. If leadership is willing to take the risks necessary to build consensus, we can avoid or certainly contain crisis. But if leadership is not there, we will inevitably govern by crisis. But there is a price to be paid for relying on crisis – the loss of trust of the American people in our system of governing.

You know what it takes to work together to get things done. It is about building relationships, and the best time to build that working coalition is in the first 100 days of the new administration. The nucleus for that coalition can begin with the bipartisan members of the House and Senate who successfully worked on the last COVID-19 aid package.

Your first legislative efforts should focus on delivering opportunity for all. Some critical elements of that agenda could be an additional recovery bill that provides businesses, workers, states, and communities the federal assistance needed to get them back on their feet; a rebuild America bill that funds new infrastructure jobs in both rural and urban America; a national service bill that gives every young person the funds to pay for a college education or skill training in exchange for two years of public service; and a bill to renew the promise of America that enacts comprehensive immigration reform that provides for border security, a legal workforce, and a path to citizenship. 

Of course, your administration will have to deal with a number of priorities at home and abroad, but the first job is to show that you can successfully govern.

By passing a strong bipartisan agenda, you will not only restore the American dream of equal opportunity for

Job one: Restore public trust in governmentFocus on solutions, not party labelsWhy the world needs American leadershipIn global affairs, no more US preeminence Listen to a diversity of voices and viewsTake steps to curb corrosive populismFor students, debt relief, not blanket cancellationWork across the aisle on climateFocus on stemming both racial and wealth inequality 

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