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President-Elect Web Site Counts Days to 'Change'

Monday, 10 Nov 2008 11:38 AM

By Dave Eberhart

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Change.Gov, the brand new official Web site of the Office of the President Elect, reminds us at the very top of its home page that there are but 71 days to tick away until the inauguration of Barack Obama as president — when the catharsis of promised change begins with a bang.

That dramatic change poised to strike is detailed on the site in shorthand in a section labeled “The Agenda.”

The change agenda is comprehensive and detailed and, according to the language of the site, includes lots of heavy lifting: a plan to revive the economy; to fix healthcare, education, and Social Security systems; to define a clear path to energy independence; to end the war in Iraq responsibly and finish the U.S. mission in Afghanistan; and to work with U.S. allies to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon — among many other domestic and foreign policy objectives.

One may recall former first lady Hillary Clinton’s foiled and rebuffed efforts to fix healthcare in the first 100 days of her husband’s first term. In reflection years later, she said that the experience taught her “the importance of bipartisan cooperation and the wisdom of taking small steps to get a big job done.”

Nothing quite so substantive is on the new first lady’s agenda. Michelle Obama plans to focus on the work-life balance when she becomes first lady, said Valerie Jarrett, who co-chairs the transition team.

“She knows how hard it is to manage being a mom, a spouse, have a professional job. And she has a lot of support. She’s the first to say, ‘Look, I did it with all this support. What about the women out there who are doing it in such a challenging way?’” Jarrett said on “Meet the Press” during the weekend — an interview recounted in the “Latest News” section of Change.Gov.

Most dominant in the themes of the precedent-setting Change.Gov Web site — produced by the Obama-Biden Transition Project, a 501C(4) organization — is the heralded opportunity to serve the administration of change in a number of novel ways, and in some old ways expanded and fabricated to a new robustness:

The Obama administration, the site notes, will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges, and the new chief executive will provide plenty of ways to serve.

President-elect Obama will, for instance, expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps.

“Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free,” the site says.

Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start, according to the site.

If you are wondering just how you can climb aboard one of these job opportunities, the Web site has a section called “Jobs” that can get you started on the application process.

There’s even a section that seems borrowed directly from the infamous McCain campaign ploy of “Joe the plumber.” In the waning days of the McCain push, viewers of his Web site were invited to tell just how they were the personification of “Joe” and why this made them fans of John McCain.

In the Change.Gov version, we have “Share Your Story” and “Share Your Vision” where viewers are encouraged, “Tell us your story in your own words about what this campaign and this election means to you. Share your hopes for an Obama Administration and a government for the people.”

The hard-working common man “Joe” theme even appears to carry into the brief bios of Barack and Michelle.

Instead of highlighting the Ivy League education of President Elect Obama, the viewer is reminded that, as far as his family was concerned, “They didn’t have much money, but they taught him values from the Kansas heartland where they grew up.

“He took out loans to put himself through school. After college, he worked for Christian churches in Chicago, helping communities devastated when steel plants closed. Obama turned down lucrative jobs after law school to return to Chicago, leading a successful voter registration drive. He joined a small law firm, taught constitutional law and, guided by his Christian faith, stayed active in his community.”

Michelle Obama, also an Ivy Leaguer, is also given a portrait that emphasizes the down-to-earth aspects of her personality and career choices:

“After a few years, Michelle realized that corporate law was not her calling. So she left to give back to the city she loves and to help others serve their communities.

“She worked for City Hall, becoming the assistant commissioner of planning and development. Then she became the founding executive director of the Chicago chapter of Public Allies, an AmeriCorps program that prepares young people for public service.”

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