Dingell Column

(Editor’s note: The following is an open letter to President Barack Obama from U.S. Rep. John D. Dingell, D-15th District.)


To President Barack Obama:

What you have done is truly remarkable. Powered by a mix of traditional Democratic ideas and a 21st century campaign you have won Americans’ respect as well as inspired them to dream again.

And this inspiration comes when dreams are dying as quickly as American homes are being foreclosed and jobs are lost. Our economic woes have crippled both working families and wealthy investors. The world is weary of our military conquests and an apparent apathy for diplomacy. While we all believe in the American way, our citizens feel their leaders have lost their way. Putting a spin on a slogan from an auto company no longer with us, many people feel “this is not their father’s America” — the one in which dreams were realized, opportunity was endless and security was nearly a certainty.

The good news for you is that you have given us all reason to hope again. The bad news is that you carry a massive burden, the hopes of a frightened and aching nation.

You have surrounded yourself with a group of talented advisors, and you will have plenty of advice from the peanut galleries — like the media and some of our opponents who question your ideas for renewing America’s promise. Don’t let your dream be deferred. Keep the promises you made at all points along the campaign from Portland, Maine to the Port of San Diego and everywhere in-between.

You have the best chance of any president in my lifetime to do something about our health care crisis. You told America that we had to cut costs in order to put us on the path to insuring all Americans. You and I both know that Americans expect us to create the circumstances in which the finest medical professionals in the world can make miracles happen. But we also know primary care doctors are frustrated by high overhead costs and insurance companies limiting their compensation. I am committed to putting a bill on your desk that will provide Americans with both coverage and choices. I want to work with you to make this a reality.

Our automakers and the United Auto Workers are working feverishly to make the American auto industry more competitive. I would argue that unlike those in the financial industry, the auto companies tried to address their long-term problems before they went to the government to ask for help. But clearly, they need help now. You understand that manufacturing businesses and the jobs they provide are a vital component to America ’s success. It is not enough to just protect those jobs, but we must in fact create more like them. The lithium-ion battery, which has shown so much success powering fuel efficient vehicles like the 2010 Ford Fusion, is largely produced by companies in Japan and Korea. Help us work with companies like A123 Systems, which wants to build a competitive green product here in Michigan. Create opportunities for the great engineers we have at our great universities like the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University. Some of those great minds are already toiling away in their garages and basements working to make a better battery. They dream of creating a company that could be the next Microsoft or Google, which might sound idealistic to some, but not to someone who was a State Senator less than six years before becoming President of the United States. Give them leadership that will create the opportunity for them to realize their dreams.

Remember, your predecessor told America he was a “uniter, not a divider” and a “compassionate conservative.” Words can win elections, but only inspired actions make great presidents. You know what to do; I only ask that now you go out and do it.

With every good wish,
John D. Dingell
Member of Congress