NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR Jon Corzine, Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter, and White House senior economic adviser Jason Furman were among leading public service officials, business executives, journalists and professors who took part in an original, lively, and thought-provoking NYU Wagner forum April 24 entitled “President Obama’s First 100 Days: Implications for Urban America.”
NYU Wagner Dean Ellen Schall welcomed about 100 public service and business leaders and others to the Fifth Avenue Ballroom. The daylong conference also featured the author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, NYU Wagner Professor Paul Light, an expert on the federal government, and Robert M. Shrum, the noted political strategist and a Wagner senior fellow.
Contributing to the event’s four panel conversations were New York Times chief national political correspondent Adam Nagourney, NBC News Washington bureau chief Mark Whitaker, Politico editor-in-chief John Harris, and New York 1 political reporter Dominic Carter.
The conversations and audience questions focused on the President’s unparalleled attempts — except for, perhaps, the first 100 days of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency in the grips of the Great Depression — to stabilize a reeling national economy. Commentary also dealt with Obama’s evolving leadership style, the strong public support his actions and speeches have elicited, and the immediate and long-range challenges facing cash-squeezed cities and states.
“The most important thing that he has done,” said Governor Corzine, referring to President Obama, “is he has restored respect and confidence in the office of the presidency.”
Philadelphia’s Mayor Nutter, fielding a question from Mark Whitaker, gave the new commander-in-chief a “B-plus/A-minus” — ticking off a list of the President’s accomplishments and the many initiatives in healthcare and alternative energy investment that may yet materialize — and he added that the President and his administration have been strikingly accessible and sensitive to the concerns of big-city mayors such as himself.
“They know where cities are,” Nutter said.
At another point, Doris Kearns Goodwin, who appeared with Shrum, talked about ways in which Obama evokes Lincoln, with national crises setting the stage for both men, and with both of them attuned to the past for lessons about how to proceed.
“He really has this sense of history,” she said of the new president, who appears willing to act boldly.
Noted Shrum, “The [president’s first] budget is an architecture for a radically different future.”
Goodwin said that much about Obama’s style brings to mind her understanding and appreciation of America’s commander in chief during the Civil War. Mentioning that Obama has spoken to her about Lincoln, she said jokingly that these days the last thing she thinks about when she goes to bed at night is Abraham Lincoln.