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SUAPP Alumni Event and Reception: March 24, 2010

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Visiting Scholar Lectures on Opportunities, Hazards Facing Obama Administration

 

Walter D. Broadnax discusses the opportunities and hazards facing the Obama administration.

9:50 a.m., March 30, 2010----Walter D. Broadnax, Distinguished Professor of Public Administration at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University and Charles P. Messick Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the University of Delaware's School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy (SUAPP) for spring 2010, spoke about the conflicts and tasks that have been handed to the administration of President Barack Obama thus far during a lecture on Wednesday, March 24, at the Marriott Courtyard Newark-University of Delaware hotel on campus.

Broadnax's lecture, entitled Leadership Challenges for the President: A World of Opportunities and Hazards, was given in front of SUAPP alumni, guests and friends and dealt with how Obama and his administration have been challenged to handle many different situations, including health care, renewable energy, the financial crisis, gays in the military and changing the Washington scene. The latter challenge, he asserted, is the biggest of them all.

The president of the United States controls and develops the vision of the country, Broadnax said. However, past presidents have tended to set a framework that has affected subsequent leaders, he said, citing how the outlook of Ronald Reagan has made an impact for three decades.

For Obama, there is no exception; Broadnax said the president has had difficulty trying to make his visions a reality because he has had to follow past presidents and their own visions.

Broadnax said the country's fiscal crisis has been a challenge that Obama has inherited and that has consumed much of his presidency so far. Therefore, it may be tougher for Obama to execute what he wants to do.

So here you are, and you're going to change Washington, and coming in from one side of the stage or another is this huge trillion-dollar problem that you have, and in the face of the country that is already experiencing deficits and a growing debt, you now have to step out there and say, 'Well, I want to spend right away another 700 billion dollars,' Broadnax said, explaining how this challenge has developed.

In addition, while the president has the power to set the tone for the country, Broadnax said, the notion that the president has the capacity to work with no regard to Congress is false, as Congress and interest groups do have influence.

Ignoring them is not a good strategy, he said. So you have to figure out how you are going to dance with these people.

Broadnax, who served in the Clinton and Carter administrations as a leader in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, described the optimal situation for effective presidential leadership as horse trading. A healthy exchange of ideas between the president and Congress is ideal, rather than fighting or a tug-of-war taking place.

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The audience listens to the presentation by Walter D. Broadnax.

Unlike corporate executives, presidents have very few buttons that they can push and people who jump, he said. The Secret Service jumps; the president walks out of his office and is going someplace, they jump and go with him, but they're among the few who jump for the president. There aren't many members of Congress that jump. They're polite and respectful, but they do not jump for the president.

The important question that will be answered over the course of the Obama presidency, Broadnax said, is what levers the president will be able to find and how much traction he'll be able to get in terms of moving the country in one direction or the other.

With issues like health care, Broadnax said that although a bill has been signed by the president, the challenge is not yet completed with billions of dollars still at stake.

It ain't over, he said. They're not ready to horse-trade yet. We are hearing that repeal is going to be the watchword between now and the campaign, and the campaign will be about repeal, so you know what kind of climate then we have to look forward to.

As for hazards, Broadnax said there are many of which Obama needs to be aware. These include the Democratic Party losing the majority in the Senate, and possibly the House of Representatives, and preparing for that possibility going into the midterm election.

Additionally, he said Obama needs to make sure he doesn't lose control of his agenda or take on the appearance of looking weak, which he said happened to President Carter by the end of his term. Broadnax said he hopes Obama stays the course because that will help avoid disparities and benefit people.

Broadnax is currently on the advisory board of Harvard University's Taubman Center. He is a trustee emeritus of Syracuse University. Broadnax was also previously president of Clark Atlanta University, dean of the School of Public Affairs at American University, professor at the University of Maryland, and a full-time faculty member of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

The event was co-sponsored by the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy and the Delaware Association for Public Administration.

Article by Jon Bleiweis Photos by Mark Deshon

Originally published by UDaily.

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3/30/2010
 
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