In his first address to Congress, President Trump submitted a self-review of his first few weeks on the job. He summarized the steps he had already taken and the steps that he planned to take to make America great again. It was a highly anticipated speech — and the president more than delivered. He gave a calm, nuanced perspective on where our nation stands and where it needs to go.
I’ve spent the majority of my career dealing with top executives in business and politics. Here’s my response to his assessment:
President Trump, you have started your presidency strong. You have given the job your all. You have worked hard to deliver on your major campaign promises.
You have met with and reassured many of our key allies. The Senate has confirmed many of your Cabinet picks. You nominated a worthy Supreme Court candidate. Your supporters feel validated.
You also have made America a better place to do business. Your radically simple executive orders designed to reduce government rules and increase agency accountability will force them to loosen their death grip on American industry so our innovation and ingenuity can flourish. It’s not surprising the stock market has surged over the past few days: Your announcement that you would invest in infrastructure and cut corporate tax rates reminded the world that America is truly a free and open economy.
But like every executive in a new job, you have made and will continue to make mistakes. But these mistakes can be transformed into victories by a willingness to correct and learn from them.
The appointment of General Flynn as National Security Advisor was a mistake. Asking for his resignation after his deception came to light was the appropriate correction.
The original executive order on immigration was a mistake. It was poorly conceived, drafted and executed. It reflected an absence of competent staffing, legal input, recognition of optics and business impact analysis. However, your address to Congress turned that mistake into a triumph — not just for yourself but for the American industry you seek to promote. By endorsing a merit-based immigration system, you offer a path to the kind of immigration reform this country desperately needs and on which Congress has failed to deliver. Focusing on merit and skills in our decisions about visas and citizenship will allow us to attract the best and brightest from around the world — the type of talent that will create jobs and make our economy strong.
Top executives risk becoming isolated and surrounded by sycophants pushing their own agenda. Success requires being open to varied input and being a good listener. You have been strong in these areas in several instances. Since your election, you have met with a wide range of groups, including a few that opposed you. Almost everyone came away pleased and less critical.
Keep building on this strong track record. Meet with influential, reasonable and patriotic leaders who can provide different perspectives, strengthen your decision-making and help create external advocates. Meet with the bipartisan congressional caucus affiliated with No Labels. They consistently work together to solve big problems such as jobs, the deficit, entitlements and energy and can help you cut deals in Congress.
Your relationship with the media is understandably frustrating. They fawned over your predecessor and gave him an eight-year honeymoon, despite his ban on White House photos, withholding of information required to be made public, and illegal wiretapping of journalists.
But frankly, the extensive media coverage during the campaign helped get you the job in the first place. And now that you’ve won, your hyperbole gives the press more fodder to criticize you. Challenging verifiable facts about voter fraud and inauguration crowd size does not enhance your reputation. Your use of Twitter can help you reach all of us immediately, but get a second opinion before posting.
Your opponents’ tactics are risky. Thuggery, interrupting town hall meetings, boycotting nominee votes and vowing to “resist” doesn’t appeal to ordinary Americans. You can appeal to the moderate center, if you give them an opening. Reach out to minorities. Former Clinton voters might be swayed, if you show some empathy, listen to their concerns and emphasize unity.
Make big things happen. Cut spending. Exceed expectations.
Go forward on infrastructure. Let repatriated funds help pay for it. Create high paying jobs. Encourage apprenticeships and training for jobs that are open. Stop the promiscuous use of federal money for worthless college degrees. Encourage Americans to hire Americans. Stop Indian outsourcing firms from using up H-1B visas and open those slots so American companies can hire the best and brightest.
Set a goal for self-driving cars to cut accident deaths. Take on health-care costs, and challenge the drug companies charging Americans the most and the government whatever they want. Improve NAFTA. Make a trade deal with Britain. Defend American companies before the EU. Seek parity of business treatment with China. Calm relations with Russia. Make peace in the Mideast.
Above all, remember: You were hired for your experience, your vision, your promise of a better way. For the first time, you gave us a glimpse of what you see when you talk about making our nation great again. After a strong-but-rocky first month, it was a welcome transformation. Keep your eyes fixed on that vision. If you stay faithful to it, America will follow your lead.