Presidential inauguration events have become increasingly costly, occupying several days versus one or two only a few decades ago, and have, of late, become elaborate galas, variety shows and extravaganzas. And, why?
Tradition? Reward? Ego enhancement?
I believe in tradition but I also believe in change and I submit that our domestic and world conditions and challenges are so grave today to suggest continuing only the tradition of the swearing-in ceremony, the inaugural address, luncheon and national day of service the preceding day and jettisoning the rest. Rather than two days or more of parties of various kinds, why not take a page from the 1873 Ulysses S. Grant playbook (he had the first inaugural parade) and have a military parade — not in January -- but in 2014 in New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles when we can dutifully honor our military men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan as they return from our decade-plus war theatre?
If there was ever a time for Congress and the President to significantly scale back the inaugural events, it is now. No one, especially Congress and the President, should need reminding that income gaps have widened, inequality has deepened, housing is tumultuous, war is continuing, college tuition is escalating, homelessness is growing and healthcare costs are soaring, not to mention the foreboding “fiscal cliff.” Let’s keep the meaningful parts of this very important tradition and institute inaugural change by discarding the inordinately expensive, ostentatious and wasteful dinners, 11 scheduled balls and countless major donor receptions and unofficial events.
Retaining the traditions that have value and losing those that don’t requires artful leadership. We would be wise to recall the words of Winston Churchill: “A love of tradition has never weakened a nation; indeed it has strengthened nations in their hour of peril; but the new view must come, the world must roll forward.”
Eich is the author of Real Leaders Don’t Boss.