The Washington Post

Give us specifics, President Obama

Since I have been old enough to write, whenever I have a problem, I grab a pen, sit somewhere quiet and write it out. I start by listing the pros and cons of the situation and before long it turns into a lengthy letter to myself. I have approached the “Help Wanted” project in the same way. This time my problem is unemployment and my audience consists of more than just me.

I’ve been asked several times what I would like to hear from the president when he makes his speech to the nation about the jobs crisis, which has made me think about those who actually write the speech. I’m wondering if they, like me, sit somewhere quiet and make that list of pros and cons and whether they scribble notes to themselves in the margins.

I’d like to give our president some advice for his big speech and remind him that actions do speak louder than words.

First, please stop speaking in generalities. Americans are not stupid. They can tell the difference between party talking points and “straight talk.”

Second, outline the plan with specifics. Get down to the nitty-gritty details. Tell us exactly which industry you’ll promote for job growth. Tell us exactly what line in the budget you’ll cut. Tell us exactly how this is going to work. Charts, graphics and visual aids are a plus. Also, put the outline somewhere Americans can access it easily and read it for themselves complete with a comments section so you can receive the feedback.

(Courtesy of Marianne Steffey)

Third, focus on the policies that promote a healthy business “environment.” If certain policies allow American companies to make their products cheaper overseas, fix it. If companies can find loopholes that allow them to make record profits without hiring workers or paying anything in taxes, close the loophole.

Finally, stop acting as if the other party is blocking your ideas. Compromise. Listen. Act!

Our nation needs another “We’re going to the moon” moment and this is Obama’s chance to find it and lay it out to America just as JFK did so many years ago. But the action must follow!

I must say, one speech isn’t going to fix what ails America, but one decisive and swift action might! It’s the action we’re looking for, Mr. President.

I’ve learned over the years that writing out a problem is a fantastic way to sort through it in your head, but it doesn’t get you anywhere unless you act upon those thoughts.

It’s time to act. The time for talking is over. America is looking to you for the solution. We know you can speak beautifully, but can you do what needs to be done without saying a word?

Marianne Steffey, a 32-year-old former journalist from Erwin, Tenn., has been unemployed for seven months. Read more about her here. Read about the “Help Wanted” project here. Visit the project home page here.

Read more updates from Marianne Steffey here.


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