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Last modified: Thursday, February 12, 2009

Indiana University experts offer policy advice to President Obama

Feb. 12, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Imagine you're sharing an elevator ride with President Barack Obama, and he asks your advice -- about something you've spent your professional career studying.

That was the challenge presented to almost 30 Indiana University faculty members, including experts in health care, education, the environment, technology, the arts and other fields. Their responses make up a special issue of IU's Perspectives in Policy, a monthly e-newsletter.

The issue can be seen on the Web at

White House photo

Rob Crawley

The White House

The e-newsletter was distributed this week as President Obama worked to win congressional approval of an economic stimulus bill and faced countless other challenges. On Monday, he rallied public support for the stimulus plan in Elkhart, Ind., where unemployment has hit 15 percent.

"Mr. President, you have won the most important -- and, I suspect, most difficult -- job in the world," writes IU law professor Fred H. Cate, who directs the Center on Applied Cybersecurity Research, before offering advice on protection for individual privacy.

The newsletter includes separate electronic pages of advice on: energy, science and the environment; health policy and health care; K-12 and postsecondary education; public service and government effectiveness; making the arts a national priority; and tax policy, cybersecurity and prisons. Faculty members offer a range of ideas, including:

  • Boost consumer spending by using federal funds to reduce state sales taxes.
  • Use the power of technology to improve citizens' health, not just the health care system.
  • Take advantage of the global interest in learning English to help young Americans engage with the world.
  • Reach out to China and India, the world's most populous countries, to tackle climate change.
  • Create an Arts Corps to share the experience of having one's life changed by art.

The experts urge Obama to heed expertise, and they take heart from his inauguration address promise to "restore science to its rightful place." While some of the "elevator speeches" are analytical and policy oriented, others are direct and personal.

"I ask you to first, send your two adorable girls to ballet class. It will send such a powerful message to children all over the world," writes Michael Vernon, chair of the Department of Ballet at the IU Jacobs School of Music.

For previous issues of Perspectives on Policy and other Indiana University newsletters, see