When the activist and academic Cornel West spoke at Saint Louis University in 2010, he said that he supported Barack Obama until Obama was elected president in 2008. The day after, West became Obama’s fiercest critic. Here we are again, and with Obama reprising his role as commander-in-chief, it’s time for every American—his supporters included—to begin challenging their president to improve. After all, politics don’t disappear after the election, though thankfully, political advertisements do.
What would we at The University News like to see from Obama? Mr. President, above all, we want you to be honest. We get it, when you’re running for re-election, you have an image to maintain. But that’s all over now, so own up. What have been your biggest mistakes? Did you underestimate the economic crisis? What happened in Libya? In 2008 you said that you’d talk to Americans like adults. Well, it’s 2012, but you can still start now; better late than never.
Along those same lines, don’t be afraid to take credit as well as blame. Recognize your own accomplishments; your political opponents certainly aren’t going to. But when things go sour in bipartisan discussions, don’t just blame it on the other side. What actually happens in those meetings? When our representatives are locked in a squabble, how do you as our nation’s leader act to encourage compromise, and how could you do it better?
Moreover, take a stance on issues that were neglected during the campaign, but are still important to voters. Without having to worry about winning another term, you should be free to speak your mind on things such as same-sex marriage and environmental concerns. Many of your constituents voted for you based on your stance on these issues; now is the time to live up to their faith in you.
So come out in support of same-sex marriage. We already know you’re in favor of it; you couldn’t hide your views from conservative voters during the election, and you shouldn’t try to hide them now. If you believe in something, use your position as a leader to act on it and make a statement about it. And, especially after Hurricane Sandy, resume the discussion of climate change. Though voters may have had more pressing concerns during the election, climate change will affect America and the world far beyond your tenure as president. Push for progress in this area.
More broadly, simply do the things you said you’d do in the campaign. Of course you’re largely dependent on the cooperation of Congress, but in some areas you have significant power on your own. In particular, end the war in Afghanistan. You said you would end it, now follow through. Americans on both sides of the aisle are tired of war.
Finally, listen to your critics, but stand up to them as well, whether they be Republicans, members of your own party or the editorial board of The University News. Assert yourself and get work done in Washington. Be the leader America needs. A second term gives you considerable freedom to make positive changes for this country. We hope that you will make the most of that freedom.