With the November 8th presidential election rapidly approaching, I’ve recently found myself looking towards the future. Caught up in a 24/7 news cycle and the constant dialogue between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (as well as Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party), I’ve been thinking more about the next presidential administration than the Obama-era policies of today.Photo: Envelope containing message from George W. Bush to Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, Jan. 20, 2009, sitting on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office at the White House, effectively ending the Presidential transition. (Photo credit: The White House)
This idea, that an election cycle captivates the public’s attention and directs it away from the present and towards the future, recently became clear to me when I attended an event on Georgetown University’s campus. At Georgetown, we have a program in the graduate school of public policy called the Institute of Politics and Public Service, which works primarily to introduce all Georgetown students to political activities and personas at the local, state, and national levels. The Institute is notable for its speaker series and political fellows, who work with students to foster a spirit of political engagement on campus.
This year, the Institute is hosting a series called The Exit Interview. The series is designed as a retrospective on the Obama administration, in which six prominent Cabinet and advisory officials will come to campus and share their thoughts on the Obama administration and American policies moving forward.
Last week, for the national security and foreign policy portion of the series, Susan Rice addressed a crowd of Georgetown students and faculty. Susan Rice currently serves as President Obama’s National Security Advisor and was the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the early years of the Obama administration. Ambassador Rice spoke about her professional path into the Obama administration, her accomplishments as UN Ambassador and National Security Advisor, her most frustrating moments in office, and her policy ideas for the future.
Susan Rice is currently serving as the 24th U.S. National Security Advisor. She was formerly the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. (Photo credit: U.S. State Department)
The content of Ambassador Rice’s address was interesting, but what struck me most was her tone; she framed the upcoming presidential election as a time of monumental transition. This election, Rice stated, provides the next President of the United States with the remarkable opportunity to both capitalize on the Obama administration’s progress and learn from its mistakes, and hopefully charter an even better path forward.
President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office of the White House Monday, Nov. 10, 2008. (Photo credit: The White House)
Which policies the next President should adopt is a matter of opinion, but the sentiment of Ambassador Rice’s statement rings true, I believe. Regardless of whether an election is at the local, state, or national level, political contests should be viewed neither as an opportunity to completely uphold the status quo nor as a chance to disregard the previous administration entirely, but rather as a time for critical reflection and collaborative learning. Putting partisan politics aside, consecutive administrations might do well to communicate with one another – discussing policy initiatives and leadership strategies – such that the government’s future is even brighter for their citizens. This strategy would be most visible at the national level, where the upcoming presidential election dominates our news, but it would certainly be beneficial at all levels of government.
»Putting partisan politics aside, consecutive administrations might do well to communicate with one another.«
The Exit Interview series, which will be hosted by the Georgetown University Institute for Politics and Public Service over the next few months, will offer me an opportunity to engage in such reflection. I would encourage everyone to take a step back as well and to think of these elections in the abstract: How can the next US President move forward in a positive way, informed not only by his/her own views, but also by the legacies and guidance of previous administrations?
Brandon Greenblatt is a student majoring in International Affairs and studying German at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and originally from Matthews, North Carolina. Brandon is no stranger to writing and publishing as the editor of the Western Europe section of The Caravel, Georgetown's international affairs newspaper.