On Inauguration Day, the opportunity to make an immediate and profound turn toward charting the course for the rebirth of United States technology and industry should not escape the new Administration. Not just a time of symbolism, January 20 should be a day of immediate work for the fresh President. Dispensing with the usual celebratory evening parties that systemically dot the District of Columbia every four years, the new Chief Executive should set a tone of urgency and substance by calling an instant summit of Chief Executives from the Motor City. "Detroit," he should pronounce, "It's time to get real. Meet me and Congressional leaders of both parties in the Roosevelt Room at 5 p.m. Let's roll up our sleeves and get to work right away…" Preparation for such an encounter can begin on November 5.
During his first address to the nation as the new occupant of the White House, the President should immediately set forth the already promised goal of making the nation energy independent within 10 years, as advocated during the campaign. That goes without saying. However, contained in the words which will echo across the Mall and span the seas should also be a challenge to the surviving domestic auto makers. "We shall produce, within 10 years, entire fleets of American built vehicles powered by electricity, hydrogen and alternative fuels…which achieve maximum mileage. Gasoline powered vehicles will not be acceptable. If Detroit wants to re-invent itself and obtain "bailout" funds from Congress, it should completely dispense with yesterday's thinking and retool for an American manufacturing renaissance."
Getting down to work…right away, just after the President and his entourage arrive back at the White House from their trip to Capitol Hill, would be genuinely symbolic, but also very telling. There is no time to celebrate once the oath of office is taken…our nation is in serious jeopardy on so many fronts that we cannot afford to start the new administration "as usual." Needed is action with all deliberate speed. If such a symbolic start of the next four years is to be viewed by history as a success, it must immediately become substantive. Given the strain our oil dependence and climate change visit upon the American psyche and economy each and every hour, perhaps no other problem cries out for such a pressing mandate from Washington…on Day One.
It's time to stop watering down federal mileage requirements with petty politics…the party should be over for a benevolent auto emissions and mileage policy. Setting a definitive and aggressive national goal, focused on inventing a completely new Detroit, would invigorate American industry, encourage a new dimension in technology, spark an economic revolution, and put scores of thousands back to work. The goal should be enunciated at the height of the President's power, which is at the beginning of the term. Clearly, party faithful, job seekers, dignitaries, politicians, lobbyists and campaign workers seek a night of grand celebration at the start of any Administration's term. However, inauguration festivities usually begin days before the official ceremony. Face it, these are not normal times; the time to stop partying is at noon, January 20. That's when it's the moment to get directly to the people's business. The American voter seeks evidence of real transformation, not delayed.
Mr. President-Elect, let's press the accelerator toward genuine change…not just in Washington, but in American automotive boardrooms in the first few hours of your hopeful term.