The Vital Importance of A President's and Daddy's First 100 Days
By Allan Shedlin
Founder, DADvocacy Consulting Group
"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.
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.
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"
January 20, 2021
Through my daddying lens, I find hope in wishing our new administration well by thinking about President Biden and how he earned the nickname “Amtrak Joe.” During his 1972 swearing-in as the youngest Senator ever elected, shortly after his wife and infant daughter had been killed in a tragic car crash, he took his oath of office by his two sons’ bedside where they were lying in their hospital room recovering from critical injuries.
Subsequently, he made the 90-minute train ride from DC to Wilmington, DE, every day so he could be with his boys. It is estimated that he has traveled more than 2 million train miles on 16,000 trains.
Yesterday, he took his oath as President of a critically-ill United States of America in the presence of 25,000 troops, who were guarding the US Capitol.
So, as I look for signs of hope during the recent dark days in our nation’s history, I look to the kind of dad Joe Biden has been. It provides hope that our ailing country may heal if we unite behind solid, well-conceived plans and summon the empathy needed for those who are suffering in our midst.
"We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another...If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy."
– Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, from "The Hill We Climb"
Allan Shedlin has devoted his life’s work to improving the odds for children and families. He has three daughters, a “bonus” son, five grandchildren, and three “bonus” grandchildren. Trained as an educator, Allan has alternated between classroom service, policy development, and advising. After eight years as an elementary school principal, Allan founded and headed the National Elementary School Center for 10 years. In the 1980s, he began writing about education and parenting for major news outlets and education trade publications, as well as appearing on radio and TV. In 2008, he was honored as a "Living Treasure" by Mothering Magazine and founded REEL Fathers in Santa Fe, NM, where he now serves as president emeritus. In 2017, he founded the DADvocacy Consulting Group. In 2018, he launched the DADDY Wishes Fund and Daddy Appleseed Fund. In 2019 he co-created and began co-facilitating the Armor Down/Daddy Up! and Mommy Up! programs. He earned his elementary and high school diplomas from NYC’s Ethical Culture Schools, BA at Colgate University, MA at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and an ABD at Fordham University. But he considers his D-A-D the most important “degree” of all.