An Entrepreneur’s Letter to President Obama: Give Americans a Great Challenge to Pursue

Matt McCormick

January 25, 2013 · 2 minutes read

Uncategorized

Dear Mr. President,

Like so many of my fellow Americans, I was raised to believe that Americans are capable of anything we put our minds to. This has been proven time and time again through our history. From defeating the most powerful army in the world in 1777 to putting a man on the moon to building a powerful computer that fits in our pockets. Americans have accomplished great feats in politics, business, humanity, and engineering for almost 250 years.

But today, something is missing. Something important that you are in a unique position to give us. We are missing a specific cause to unite behind and pursue. Instead, we are wandering in the desert of generalities. Better health care. Better schools. Energy independence. These are nice statements, but they lack a specific end goal. We need a big and well defined pursuit that we can chase together as a nation.

Think about your greatest predecessors. Abraham Lincoln had a single-minded vision: Preserve the Union. Franklin Roosevelt didn’t really become great until he united America behind the cause of ending Fascism and Imperialism. John Kennedy asked us to put a man on the moon. Ronald Reagan was hell bent on winning the Cold War.

Yes, these men pursued and accomplished other things. But they are remembered for their one or two big achievements. They are remembered for uniting America and unleashing its potential on the world. We put a man on the moon! Can you imagine the Herculean effort that took with 1960’s technology? Yet, we did it. And why? Because we had a clear vision of what we wanted to accomplish. That is our greatness as a united country.

Mr. President, I am all for energy independence, affordable health care, lower unemployment, and better schools. But tell me, who isn’t? Affordable health care is something we desperately need. You need to keep working on it. But it hardly stirs the blood and unites the men and women of this country.

So I have a suggestion for you. Let’s build a car in the next 10 years that gets 100 mpg and costs less than $20,000. That’s something inspiring – and incredibly useful. It will also be amazingly profitable for American business and create a lot of jobs.

Maybe you have another idea. That’s fine. Just give us something specific and grand to shoot for. Trust me on this – America is a country of entrepreneurs, and we can accomplish it if you just present us with the challenge.

15 Comments

  1. Building a car in 10 years that costs under 20k and 100mpg is a yawn-worthy goal. If that were seriously the Country’s 10 year goal, do you think that would inspire anyone? I thought this letter was a pretty good example of people’s “Big Vision” stuff being actually pretty small and extrapolating from current trends. Robotic cars with no need for car ownership could happen in 3 years with government support.

    The other president’s examples are pretty flawed. They are basically “Other presidents have gone to war, why haven’t you?” Omitting the war on terror and war on drugs, of course.

    Here are two good/crazy government 10 year goals:

    1) Eliminate the need for a legislature. Why do I need someone to represent my vote at all?
    2) Do more for less – find a way to provide today’s services for 1/10th the cost. That way if you want to keep spending you can spend it on new stuff. Literally cut 10% of the budget on all government services every year and make people care.

  2. “So I have a suggestion for you. Let’s build a car in the next 10 years that gets 100 mpg and costs less than $20,000”

    Wow! Now I feel inspired. Bleh!

  3. Editor’s Note:

    The writer’s intention in this article was not to suggest a specific goal, like car manufacturing. Rather, it was to propose a general idea that our country needs a specific goal – a great one – that will unite us; one that we can all rally behind.

  4. Note from the Editor:

    The writer’s intention in this article was not to suggest a specific goal, like car manufacturing. Rather, it was to propose a general idea that our country needs a specific goal – a great one – that will unite us; one that we can all rally behind.

    • I understand, it just undermines your argument when the only examples you have are to go to war with someone like the South, Germany, Russia, or your “big dream what can we accomplish” technology is something that would have a tiny negligible impact on my day to day (and for that matter is probably under 5 years away even with zero government involvement). I would say, as an Entrepreneur writing to this entrepreneur dream bigger & don’t ask the government for a handout or motivation.

      • There was never a request for a government handout in this article. There was simply a request for the person with the biggest megaphone in the US (the president) to challenge Americans (and American business) to do something great. It was not a call for government mandates or for government subsidies.

        In fact, I’d be angered to see the government choosing sides in any technological challenges. Thoughts of Solyndra come to mind – that’s what happens when the government chooses sides.

        That’s not what I want. I simply would like to see all of us united behind a single, huge challenge. I just happen to think the person best positioned to make that challenge to the greatest number of people sits in the oval office.

        I could be wrong. It most definitely wouldn’t be the first time.

    • Personally, I think the biggest innovation of the next decade is already in development — Google self-driving cars, read an article the other day about how it will be a multi-trillion dollar industry, what we can get around as a nation is to build out the infrastructure–to be really viable as a nation we need 1 gig internet in every corner of this country so that the “Internet of Things” can truly become a reality, and so that other internet-based technologies can grow and thrive. Hopefully, we don’t end up spawning Skynet though, and the Rise of the Machines lol.

  5. So basically, you’re suggesting the LSD of solutions. “Hey dudes, there’s a lot of stuff going on that’s really important and we can’t seem to agree on anything, so rather than develop some maturity and solve these problems head on like adults, let’s drop some acid and we can all, like, love, man.” Lincoln preserved the Union. I’m pretty sure he would have preferred the South have just emancipated the the slaves so it didn’t come to that. I’m fairly sure Roosevelt would have preferred the Germans stayed in their place. I’m pretty sure Kennedy would have preferred the Russians didn’t build orbital technologies and pose a huge threat to the country … you get my point. Better health care. Better schools. Energy independence. Those are huge goals, evidenced by the fact that we haven’t even come 5% close to achieving them. So I’m sorry, but just like the events you mentioned didn’t happen by stronghold politics impeding progress on those issues, we should have leaders and a nation who are ready to come to the table and talk earnestly about achieving our goals seeing as they’re “what everyone wants.” If we do not, then it’s not because they aren’t grandiose goals for entrepreneurs or the nation to tackle, it’s simply because there is no boogieman to force people to be mature and responsible in making it possible for the national good.

  6. Wow, who’d have thought that posting something fairly positive would garner so much negativity.

    First, I’d like to say that Melissa and Seth are correct, the actual idea of the car was more of…well…an idea. A thought. A starting point. The fact is, my first degree was in mechanical engineering and I’ve always had a soft sport for advanced auto designs. I find them exciting. Apparently many of you do not.

    But then you missed the point.

    The idea was that we are currently a country that is hugely divided. And not in a healthy way. People can disagree on policy. That’s good. But there is so much hatred and disrespect in our country right now. I think the previous comments sort of prove the point.

    To Joel: You are correct that anyone that needs the government to tell them what to do shouldn’t probably be an entrepreneur. (Of course, with almost a trillion dollar a year defense budget there’s a lot of companies that might disagree with you.) But the fact is the vast majority of Americans are not entrepreneurs, and far too many are willing to blindly follow the Rush Limbaughs and Ed Schultzs of the world. This tells me that many people are looking for someone to lead them. Why not lead them towards something useful and tangible instead of something vitriol.

    The whole point of the article was to point out that given a challenge, we, as the most entrepreneurial and inventive people in the world, can accomplish almost anything. But we NEED a specific goal to shoot for.

    You wouldn’t run your business by saying, “I want to make a lot of money.” Instead, you’d put in hard targets. “I want revenues of $2 million and profits of 15% next year.” That’s something you can measure yourself against.

    I’m simply saying, that our president would do well to challenge us all to accomplish something meaningful and measurable. Something that in 5 or 10 years we can step back and be proud that we accomplished it.

    If you think a car that gets 100 mpg and costs less than $20,000 is too simple, then please, give a specific goal that you’d like to see.

    I’d really love to hear what people can come up with.

    • This negativity issue is the real problem with anyone suggesting a big forward looking statement. Especially from a political leader. We have become a society of jaded partisans with nothing much to offer but retorts towards the ideas and goals of everyone else.
      The want for a forward looking goal from our president is a great idea, and one that will never happen. Whatever it was that gets proposed would be instantly turned into attack ads. It also will not be followed up with any functional directions from the government. When we decided to go to the moon we (the nation) got behind it. We spent money on the goal. We spent money on the development of the companies and the technologies that could make it happen. Many of these companies were startups (the grandfathers of silicon valley)… We also got behind it by making it a priority in our schools, and a priority in our “national interest”… The media gave it constant press.
      Until we find a way in this country to once again bring the people together behind the idea that the people of this nation are better off when they work together then as rugged individuals in a dog eat dog world, we will continue to see our nation weaken, and great ideas get lost for lack of focus and funding.

  7. Anyone bashing this guy for writing this. You are the problem! He’s stating our elected leaders need to state more specific goals for our great country to rally behind. Bring a sense of togetherness about instead of the “us” and “them”. We are all Americans! Our government is for us and by us. We are their bosses! They are public servants, and they have, so far only served themselves and their buddies. Go USA

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