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Four other priorities for Obama's next four years (besides the economy)

By Henry Hanks, CNN
updated 1:16 PM EST, Tue January 22, 2013
US President Barack Obama addresses the audience after taking the oath of office during the 57th Presidential Inauguration ceremonial swearing-in at the US Capitol on January 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. US Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath.
US President Barack Obama addresses the audience after taking the oath of office during the 57th Presidential Inauguration ceremonial swearing-in at the US Capitol on January 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. US Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • iReporters had surprising answers on what Obama should tackle in his second term
  • Middle East policy, immigration among top concerns
  • Answers differ somewhat from 2012 election issues

(CNN) -- Fixing the economy has long been at the top of everyone's presidential wish list.

Nearly half of all Americans named the economy the most important issue facing the nation today, followed by the deficit and health care, according to a current CNN poll.

But there are a lot of hot button issues Americans would like President Obama to address in his second term.

CNN iReport challenged people to finish the sentence, "In his second term, Obama should ..." and the responses were varied and surprising. Read below and watch the videos to see four of the most interesting.

Sworn in again, Obama lingers for last look

1. Rebuild infastructure


Cherry Davis, who has been struggling in the Los Angeles job market for the past couple of years, believes she knows the best way for the president to create jobs, taking inspiration from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Davis thinks rebuilding the nation's infrastructure, part of what she terms "a modern New Deal," would be the best thing Obama could focus on in his new term. She voted for Obama this election.

"I believe that our country is behind and it's because we are not rebuilding our infrastructure," she said. "Instead, we are using the same methods that took place after the Great Depression. We need to rebuild our infrastructure from energy to roads to bridges."

"This would get America back to work building a larger tax base and bringing the middle class back. We need to keep up with technology from a nationwide high speed rail, to our power grid. Updating our nation will create jobs."

Davis said that she would take a job to help rebuild the country's infrastructure if one became available.

CNN.com commenter "Leftcoastrocky," agreed. "Our infrastructure has been neglected for a full generation and is making our economy less efficient and more expensive."

A tale of two terms: Unfinished business and battles ahead

2. Improve education in the United States


Education ranked fourth on our list of top issues during the election as voted by CNN.com readers and iReporters, so it was less of a surprise to see Obama voter and rising East Carolina University student Tyler Stocks mention this topic.

Stocks said he relies on financial aid for his education, as increasing college tuition and textbook prices have been a strain. Costs have risen as much as 8.3% at public universities, according to a 2011 U.S Department of Education study.

"I plan to transfer to a university in the summer but am worried about how to pay for it," he said. "Even with financial aid, education has become a matter of affordability and the whole idea of following your dreams is difficult when you can't afford to. I am hoping that the president can work to ensure that students such as I are afforded with the opportunity to receive a good education."

As David Evan Karasek put it in CNN.com's comments, "Educating our young to compete is not an option but a requirement for America's future."

Obama's second-term priorities

3. Take charge of breaking partisan gridlock

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Mark Ivy, who voted for Mitt Romney, said Obama didn't always show great leadership dealing with Congress in his first term. He thinks that should be the president's top focus now.

"The election returned divided government to Washington. Yet it seems as we head into a new term for the president and with a new Congress, the helm of state remains without a definitive captain steering the ship," said the Farmersburg, Indiana, resident.

"No one in Congress is taking the lead. For the second time in as many years, the vice president has had to be called up from the reserves to take the lead and forge a way through the tangled web. We elected a president to be the leader, not the vice president. We elected the president to sit down with Congress and find common ground for the common good. It's time to shine in the second term with a real display of leadership."

iReporters and commenters also debated this issue of leadership and the president's approach to dealing with Congress.

"A leader builds that consent (to be led) by the depth of his character, the ability not to give meaningless orders, and the ability to understand that it is better to bring different viewpoints together for a common cause, instead of always wanting to win the argument," wrote Kevin in the comments.

J. Von Hettlingen added, "Obama's priorities are to mend ties with the Congress, without ceding his power. It's most important to have a functioning relationship with the legislature, if a president wants to have things done. Having said that, one has to admit that it is easier said than done. It's a real pity that so many in the House don't have the country's best interest at heart."

Ivy has been disabled for the past decade, and said that the stress of the recent uncertainty over the economy, the fiscal cliff and other issues, has also been a burden.

"Having true leadership in the White House would affect me personally by providing more stability and certainty in knowing that my monthly Social Security check would continue to arrive without fear of it being disrupted or delayed, which could cause issues with buying my needed medicines, food and meeting monthly living expenses," he said.

4. Fix the tax structure


The plight of the dwindling middle class is a top concern for small business owner Egberto Willies, a politically active Obama supporter.

"While I agree that we have a lot of problems to take care of, solving the income and wealth inequality is tantamount," he said.

He believes the tax structure should be changed to resolve these issues.

"The reality is none of the other issues matter if the decline of the middle class continues. If the decline of the middle class continues, immigration is not a problem because no one would want to come here. Gun control won't matter because the government will be forced to remove guns from people with nothing else to lose. Education won't matter as there would be no reason to be educated without a job that lifts or keeps one in the middle class."

The tax structure has also created a big conversation on CNN.com, as commenters went back and forth over corporate tax rates and how much taxes ought to be raised on the wealthy.

"Unless this country goes back to a tax structure pre-Reagan, all but the top 1% is doomed," said Bruce Rubin.

"As a small-business owner there are years when I have made a lot of money and paid a lot of taxes on that," Willies said. "It never once made me upset because I never thought I would make the kind of money I was making. Right now my business (is suffering) because of the economy and my interest in political activism has taken a hit. This means tax increases do not affect me much except in my investments."

Which issues would you say ought to be the priority over this next term? Did iReporters and commenters miss the mark by not talking about the economy? Share your thoughts below.

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