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Council of Past Presidents

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Marvin N. Pichla
December 5, 2020

Public Sector Innovation has and continues to be my career/lifelong passion and priority. Whether it is something simple like customizing trainings for an alliance of employers that builds on improved worker competency and greater company efficiency, or a whole new welfare-to-work initiative that goes on to become a strong State/National model, innovation is an everyday need in the public sector, just as it is in the private business sector. Everyone has at some time in their work history uttered the words, “If I was in the position to make this change…I would and the service/product would be better!” So, driven by the need for a new era of creativity and innovation in all areas of public administration, I think it is time to consider assembling the first United States Council of Past Presidents.

A United States Council of Past Presidents would be made up of this very special group of living persons who have held the position of President of the United States of America. Picture for a moment Presidents Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and soon Donald Trump all sitting at a big round table. Additionally (soon to be) President Joe Biden would also be included in the Council but as a Member in Waiting. And all would understand that the single goal of the United States Council of Past Presidents would be to lend personal and professional consult to the Member in Waiting…the current President.

The position of United States President is totally unique in itself and special to the specific time individuals hold the office. As a result, there is no typical way for someone to be mentored for the position or, due to election impacts, hold a similar position. Therefore, it makes appropriate and necessary sense to take organized advantage of the specialized learning, need for knowledge, understanding of constructive compromise, strong stand positioning and leadership by example that surrounds the position of United States President everyday 24/7.

If we continue to build on the Council of Past Presidents innovation model strategy, it is necessary to consider offering the Council an operational function that is totally unique. First, in very simple terms it would be necessary for each Council member to leave their political party affiliation, personal negativities regarding other past presidents’ actions, and any public opinion press issues at the door! Instead the Council of Past Presidents would adopt a more Supreme Court mode of conduct and assist the current President in a non-policymaking, advisory fashion.

Next, in following our innovative format, we would assume a number of organizational principles of Council conduct. At the onset a 2+2+2 operational formula would be adopted. Specifically, this formula would designate that the Council of Past Presidents would meet 2 times per year (i.e. every six months), for 2 days (if desired) and each member would be limited to speak for only 2 minutes on an issue. The current President Member-In-Waiting would facilitate the sessions with the intent of gaining blended mentoring from the combination of Past President experience, learning, knowledge and results/outcomes contained in United States history.

Next, for the purpose of focus and consistency, the formal agenda for the Council of Past Presidents sessions would list the following United States priority items:

  • Economy
  • Security
  • Congress
  • Armed Services
  • International Relations

Discretion on levels of discussion time assigned to each topic area would lie with the current President Member-In-Waiting. However, by mandate each of these individual areas would be somehow addressed at each session.

In addition to the formal topics listed on the standard Council of Past Presidents agendas, consider all of the other more personal aspects that impact the position of United States President that may be discussed. How interesting, appropriate and beneficial on an advisory level it would be for the Past Presidents to share their insights regarding impacts on their families, need for alone time to sort out factors on a critical issue, what issues most affected their time as President, who were the people they consulted with most on specific issues and what area of concern did they NOT get to address during their time as President. The discussions would remain totally private and protected from anyone other than Council members.

Past United States Presidents forever hold the title: Mr. President. In addition, their time in Office provides them with multiple lifetime retirement benefits as a reward for their special service to the Country. Given this tradition of lifetime support, it would seem that contributing to a Council of Past Presidents initiative would be a more than fitting opportunity. Our system of United States public administration needs to draw upon and employ talent and expertise, both present and past. Creating a Council of Past Presidents would institutionalize harvesting assets from this specialized group and thereby never waste the investments made in those who have held that Office.


Author: Marvin N. Pichla, Ph.D., is the owner and creative adviser of Inspiring Innovations, Inc. Sharing his unique entrepreneurship and innovation in public service experience, Marv consults with public and private business, education and community organizations to develop new and different problem-solving methods through real-life, example-based learning. Email: [email protected], @TRIPLEIIITIME

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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