January 20, 2021
President-elect Joe Biden is scheduled to be sworn into office as the 46th President of the United States at 12:00 pm EST. Biden has promised a series of sweeping actions, most as a series of executive orders within hours of being sworn in. Biden is proposing a $1.9 trillion coronavirus bailout package that would increase unemployment benefits and generate a new round of stimulus checks. Another visible change is an expected nationwide mask mandate for all federal locations. A third promise is to provide 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the public by creating more locations for people to get to the shot. “On my first day in office, I’ll instruct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to set up the first of these centers.” Biden hopes to have 100 federally supported centers across the nation by the end of his first month. Now we need to find enough vaccine.
History shows us what is accomplished during the first 100 days of the Presidency rarely reflects its success or failure. Until the first part of the 20th century the “Hundred Days” usually referred to Napoleon Bonaparte’s frenetic activity from the time he escaped from Elba in 1815 until his permanent fall from power after the military defeat at Waterloo. For American precedents, it was not until the actions of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the 73rd Congress in 1933 that the term became a symbol of executive success. Roosevelt’s burst of presidential activity has yet to be equaled by any subsequent president and occurred during a unique political moment. The transfer of power between the unpopular Herbert Hoover (Depression) and the popular Franklin Roosevelt came as the country was gripped in fear. The official unemployment rate was 25% and America’s economic system seemed to be in free fall. Perhaps the movement is not as unique as it used to be.
While 100 Days has become a media benchmark, later Presidents rarely marked it as such. The first 100 days of Roosevelt’s presidency began on March 4, 1933, when he was inaugurated as the 32nd President of the United States. He had signaled his intention to move with unprecedented speed to address the problems facing the nation in his inaugural address, declaring: “I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require.” Roosevelt’s specific priorities at the outset of his presidency were getting Americans back to work, protecting their savings and creating prosperity, providing relief for the sick and elderly, and getting industry and agriculture back on their feet. He immediately summoned the United States Congress into a three-month (nearly 100-day) special session, during which he presented and was able to rapidly get passed a series of 15 major bills designed to counter the effects of the Great Depression.
Thoughts: Biden’s reaction to the 100 Days is like past Presidents. It is more an expression than a chronology. We have been told Biden does have a three-fold direction: creating unity in a divided country, rebuilding the economy and creating jobs, and response to the corona virus pandemic. While 100 Days is not enough to resolve these issues, there has been a pledge to begin the process on Day 1. Even with Roosevelt’s ambitious plans and actions, the American economy never righted itself until the industrial response to World War II. There is a Chinese saying by philosopher Lao-Tze (erroneously ascribed to Confucius), “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” America’s next journey (and step) begins on Day 1. Do the work. Change is coming and it starts with you.