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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

The Vital Importance of A President's and Daddy's First 100 Days

By Allan Shedlin

Founder, DADvocacy Consulting Group

Joe Biden sworn in by George H.W. Bush with daughter Ashley and sons Hunter and Beau in 1985
Joe Biden with daughter Ashley and sons Hunter and Beau in 1985, PHOTO Credit: Associated Press
"And we’ll lead, not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example."

– President Joe Biden, Inaugural Address, January 20, 2021

A lot of attention is focused on a new President’s first 100 days. At its best, this period follows much introspection and planning. The timer begins the moment the President takes the oath of office and then reveals his or her approach to governing during their Inaugural address. These intentions usually consider who and what resources need to be in place and who can be counted upon to help.

They also indicate a measure of the President as a human being.

The presidency, like daddying, involves heart and soul. And like daddying, it does not take place in a vacuum – both occur within a dynamic social system. It’s all but impossible to anticipate everything that will come up that has not been imagined.

"Take a measure of me and my heart."

– President Joe Biden, Inaugural Address

But the President’s intentions also convey a relatively clear sense of their values, an indication that they have thought through various contingencies, an acknowledgment and appreciation of all the individuals involved and impacted, a willingness to compromise as needed, and an understanding and humility that perfection is unattainable.

Field of flags on National Mall at night with U.S. Capitol in background
Field of 200,000 flags line the National Mall ahead of President Biden's Inauguration

Ever since Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency, the first 100 days have served as both a blueprint and as a set period to review successes and examine where one has fallen short. It’s also an opportunity to recalibrate as needed. The idea of creating a daddying blueprint and establishing some set milestones that can provide a measure of where one is on target and where one might be falling short and needs to recalibrate makes sense to me as well.

Yesterday’s Inauguration of our 46th President prompted me to think that we’d probably be a lot better off as a nation if we changed the way we look at fatherhood. Perhaps we should focus more on the daddy so many men want to be and their kids need them to be, rather than thinking of the President as the “Father of Our Country.”

In addition to the inherent gender discrimination of that term, the idea of looking to the President to play a fatherly role is of no greater value in 2021 than it was when George Washington was inaugurated as our first President 232 years ago. In fact, I believe it’s what we do ourselves as parents every day while interacting with our children and our closest friends and family members that makes the greatest difference.

An inaugural address usually includes general principles about how the President plans to accomplish the general goals outlined. The 20th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires the Inauguration to take place on January 20th and the oath be administered at noon. Thus, by definition, the new Administration occurs shortly after a new calendar year begins, which is often thought of as an opportunity for new beginnings, when one traditionally makes New Year resolutions.

Joe Biden with daughter, sons, and wife with quote from his book PROMISE ME, DAD

Suppose all of us who are parents and grandparents – or who play equivalent roles – thought about our 46th President Biden's and Vice President Kamala Harris’s swearing-in as if we were beginning our own first 100 days as a parent and needed to make known our intentions and consider them an oath that sets our parenting course?

"With purpose and resolve, we turn to those tasks of our time."

– President Joe Biden, in closing his Inaugural Address

What would we include? How would we want to be measured and by whom? As we consider this exercise, it’s useful to again be mindful of a quote widely attributed to C. S. Lewis: “You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

During a time in which it’s widely acknowledged that our democracy itself is under attack, when the Inaugural “attendees” around the U.S. Capitol included thousands of troops dressed in camouflage surrounding average citizens dressed in their “Sunday best,” and when insurrection more than celebration is on many minds, so many of us are searching for signs of hope. That search, which comes during the week in which we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., tends to drift back to earlier times.

"And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside."

– Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, from her Inaugural poem "The Hill We Climb"