By Dennis Culloton, President and CEO
Race riots, ISIS terrorists, North Korea, Iran and E-bola. His party lost control of Congress. It has not been a great year for President Obama. Not only has there been the predictable call from pundits for him to clean house at the White House but Senate staff members, many of whom have to suffer the ignominy of moving to smaller offices with their bosses, blame the President for their fate.
So it is no wonder the President is thinking the best place for his next act is on a rocket ship bound for Mars, the home of Martians, which by the way, in a non-binding vote also was a red planet. The president joked about his mission to Mars in a speech to pep up federal workers–not making this up– after his second term is over.
While many Congressional Republicans, and perhaps some bitter Democrats, would like the president to leave early, he’s got two more years to serve. Seeing the endless series of world calamities and the torrents of criticism, one wonders why anyone would raise a red cent let alone a billion dollars to run for president. Will the president seize the bully pulpit? Every president in the lame duck period of office has faced the challenge of remaining relevant. President Reagan focused on breakthrough arms reduction talks with Soviet President Gorbachev. President Bush II, on the other hand, saw the mortgage crisis blossom into the collapse of the credit markets and a massive global recession.
It’s frustrating for White House communications advisors. There is little they can do to break through with their message six years into their term in an increasingly fractured and balkanized Washington.
On a smaller scale, I can relate. I have worked with clients facing enormous public challenges–from a governor under investigation to CEOs facing off corporate raiders–and there comes a point where getting your message out no longer seems effective.
There is a longer discussion here about the secret of crisis and issue management being the work behind the scenes to change operational or structural problems. But as I write this, ESPN is running the JimmyV Foundation Classic College Basketball Tournament. It’s all designed to raise money and awareness for the cancer-fighting charity started by former championship North Carolina State Basketball Coach Jim Valvano. A charismatic leader, Valvano was stricken by cancer while still in his prime and his efforts to fight cancer and start a foundation earned him the Arthur Ashe Award. His famous speech to the ESPN audience is here, but Jimmy would tell the president and people with real problems everywhere: “Don’t Give Up. Don’t Ever Give Up.”
Mr. President, if you want to feel better about yourself and make a difference–one that doesn’t involve getting Congress to agree with you–support the JimmyV foundation and their noble cause. Here’s the website https:///www.jimmyv.org/index.php. And since I am on the board of a great group committed to finding the even greater scourge of pediatric cancer, here’s the link to Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation. https:///www.bearnecessities.org/HomePage.aspx