McDonough School of Business
News Story

Business, Government Leaders Call For Bipartisanship in Next Presidency

Two weeks before American voters go to the polls for the 2016 presidential election, three business and government leaders gave advice to the next person who would occupy the Oval Office.

Despite their diverse points of view, business leader and former ambassador Charles “Chuck” Cobb, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, and former mayor of the District of Columbia Anthony Williams agreed that the next president should take a bipartisan approach to solving the nation’s problems. Cobb, Mitchell, and Williams spoke at the Hariri Symposium on Oct. 25, hosted by Georgetown’s Business, Society, and Public Policy Initiative.

“Invite and consider all points of view,” Mitchell said, addressing the future 45th president. “You were the candidate of one party, but you will be the president of all the people.”

He encouraged the new commander-in-chief to commit himself or herself to high standards.

“Even before you take office and before you select your cabinet, you should adopt and make public the strongest possible set of ethical standards,” he said. “Take the high road as you walk into the Oval Office, and make sure everyone who works for you stays on that high road.”

Mitchell – who served in the U.S. Senate for 15 years, including as Senate Majority Leader from 1989 to 1995 – said he’d like to see the new president tackle issues that he felt were not adequately addressed during the campaign, including global warming and campaign finance reform.

“We need unity of people and purpose,” Mitchell said. “The president needs to make a commitment to making good health and good education available to all Americans. We need to recognize that we Americans are more than just a collection of individuals. We are citizens of society.”

For Williams, cities and metropolitan areas should be a central part of the new president’s plan.

“Democracy is realized at the local level,” he said, explaining that a sustainable, inclusive, and growing national economy starts with cities.

Williams drew upon his two terms as mayor of the nation’s capital to share how mayors and city officials can work together to solve problems.

“I’d tell the new president, ‘You ought to go big,’’ he said. “Every mayor will tell you that infrastructure is important, but it has to be done in the context of a big financial plan. Let’s go big with a fiscal plan. Then, we can move forward with infrastructure investments.”

Williams, now the CEO and executive director of the Federal City Council of Washington, D.C., hopes the president views cities both as laboratories of innovation and experimentation, as well as sites to improve the structure of democracy.

Cobb, senior managing director and CEO of Cobb Partners and former U.S. ambassador to Iceland, called on the president to bring people together.

“The president, in a cooperative spirit with Congress, has to deal with the urgent problems facing our nation,” Cobb said. “It needs to be a bipartisan, cooperative approach.”

Cobb focused on five challenges, including America’s financial situation, globalization and trade, national defense and diplomacy, immigration reform, and healthcare reform.

“There are some really urgent problems that our president needs to address,” he said. “I’m hopeful that the new president and Congress will address them in the first 100 days, and we’ll all benefit from it.”

All three speakers called for the president to commit to civility, dialogue, and reaching across the aisle.

“Despite all the negative talk, I hope you believe as I do in the promise and future of America,” said Mitchell.