As President Obama's first 100 days near completion, the question is: Where do you think we are as a nation? The pundits and pollsters and press will try to steal the limelight by pontificating endlessly and giving us their prognostications. Let them do their thing, and in the meantime let us think for ourselves. Take the First 100 Days Citizen Test below, and let me know where you think we are. For many people Barack Obama's election last November signaled a dramatic change in the direction and tone of American politics. In fact, in the last month or so, I've been with civic leaders from numerous other countries, and many felt compelled to tell me how positive they feel about the U.S. now that Obama is in office.
Since before his inauguration, Obama set out to aggressively put forth his agenda. Action has been taken, or initiated, on a whole host of fronts -- including the financial bailout, the stimulus package, auto-company supports, health care, and various foreign policy shifts from closing Guantanamo to ending torture to sending new signals to Iran.
For sure there's lots of action, maybe even more than any president since Franklin Roosevelt. But what do you make of it? The president ran on the notion of "hope and change," how are we doing? Here are some questions that I hope you'll consider about the president and his administration's first 100 days:
1. Do you believe the nation is moving in the right direction and, if so, what do you point to?
2. To what extent do you feel the first 100 days is generating "authentic hope," and to what extent do you see "false hope?"
3. Is your confidence in the ability of government to act effectively growing or not -- and why?
4. How do you feel about those who have different views from the president: are they providing an effective opposing voice -- and, if not, what would make them more effective in terms of a healthy public debate?
5. Do you feel there is emerging common ground among people about how the country needs to move forward?
The reason why I believe questions like these are important is because when change occurs, it is often hard to see, confusing to interpret, and for every couple of steps forward there are steps backward. So, on balance, what do you make of what's happening? How does this current period feel for you?
You can answer one or all of the questions I posed. But I urge you to think about them. And I also encourage you to use them with others -- at a staff meeting, in a book club, with others at your place of worship, around the dinner table.
We'll all hear a lot from those who get paid to give us their opinions. For sure, it makes sense to factor those voices into our own thoughts. But they ought not to serve as a substitute for own thinking and judgment.
For me, my goal is to find ways to make hope real for every person in America. Such change won't happen overnight, but are we on the right path?
Take the First 100 Days Citizen Test, and let me and others know what you're thinking.