It is fascinating watching the anxiety building up around Barack Obama as we approach Denver, especially relating to the actions of John McCain's opposition. Obama's supporters tend to fret and worry about everything that they believe might damage their man or sink his hopes.
Can you believe they are even making a fuss that CNN deliberately portrayed McCain to be taller than Obama? So what? And how does that help Obama? How does focusing on the actions of the opposition, whinging and whining, and fretting about possible consequences actually help to get Obama into the White House? It's not negativity and worry that achieve results. It's belief and positive actions.
The problem might lie with this word "change" and how it is perceived. People are still perceiving the desire for 'change' as 'business as usual'. But one cannot use old mindsets to bring about change because change has no prior evidence, no precedence and no history. It is new, untried and bottomless. It needs a lot of belief, faith, action and, above all, determination to bring it into being. One cannot appreciate change while still doing things the same old way, like losing heart with every slanderous book or watching the opposition intently for every tiny movement. This simply destroys hopes and dreams by giving a false perspective of the reality. When we eat ourselves up with the actions of others we get sucked into their way of doing things and we lose total sight of our goal.
Change is a scary thing. It is about going into the unknown, leaving our little comfort zones and heading into rough uncharted seas. But worrying, fretting, accusing and watching the opposition won't give us change either. It will merely keep us hanging perilously on to the shore to be beaten even more by the very people we fear. Most of all it demonstrates our lack of faith and belief in the man we claim to trust and the change we yearn for.
All the supporters who are busy noting what McCain is doing have temporarily forgotten that if they are only focusing on the bad deeds of the opposition they are not being positive either. Instead they would have been eaten up with the politics of conflict and attrition, the same old politics of yesteryear, which leaves little room for anything else. Worst still, they take the focus off Obama and keep it on McCain, expanding the oxygen of publicity for him and keeping him in the spotlight. How does that help their man?
Keeping a positive focus
Trying to change many of that last 40% is futile. Best to work on the middle 40% by emphasising Barack's great points and why change is necessary. Supporters can only persuade the doubters by keeping a positive focus on Obama and spreading his name and good intentions as often as possible. By allowing the old mindsets to take over, supporters become paralysed by fear.
Always remember the maxim: Criticise in private and praise in public. It means when you spot something by the opposition you don't like, you quietly fire off an email, spending as little time on it as possible, while you find something positive about your man Barack to promote, very LOUDLY. In this way, you will never lose the focus or take your eyes off the goal. Support Barack Obama in a POSITIVE way. Do as much as you can to send him on his journey (like donating, promoting his strengths and vision etc) and leave his camp to do the political hatchet work. Then watch the outcome.
As this Obama supporter wisely said:
Winners don't complain about the losers’ attempts to stop them during the race. Instead, they focus on holding up the trophy, and wiping champagne out of their eyes afterwards.”
Jamie Wallace, a 19-year-old Seattle University student, speaking about why he is supporting Barack Obama, wrapped it up in one sentence: "Sometimes experience is not what you need. Sometimes, it takes a fresh eye to look at issues." (See Obama: We'll 'transform America')
We have heard a lot about experience, especially with relation to Barack Obama, the USA presidential candidate, and how little leadership experience he has compared to other people. But experience is often flaunted with little substance to back it up. Experience is also not a good thing to get results because experience has tradition at its core: dead men's solutions which suited their time, fear of risks and the constant grind of doing things in a certain way; a way which has been 'tried and tested' but which is guaranteed to produce the same, often debilitating, results.
Experience on its own keeps us in the past, saying the same old things, doing the same old actions, quoting the same old tired phrases, while a fresh mind opens new doors to possibilities and puts other options on the table. The trouble with this great 'experience' is that the more someone gets it, the more they believe they have all the answers and the less they seek to learn. Yet learning is the most important thing in our lives to widen our store of knowledge, to keep up with inevitable changes, to allow a new perspective and to prevent us being fossilised in the same ways of thinking and acting.
The influence of cultural and social factors
One of the strangest phenomenon in the world of work is getting experience and then how it is perceived by those who have it. Everyone, especially younger recruits, begin a new job all wide eyed and bushy tailed, eager to learn and to begin their journey on the career ladder. Ten years into that job, especially if the person hasn't moved away from it for other experiences, and he/she is likely to be fearful, clinging on to that job for dear life, feeling they cannot afford to take any risks to find another.
Worst of all, they are likely to believe they cannot compete with anyone else because no other company would want them at that age and with that career history! Their long years of experience appeared to have counted for nothing. Instead of experience making them feel ready for other things, it keeps them stuck as their confidence falls. Thus they continue with their experience, getting the same results week after week, month after month, fearful of the wider world and new competition, while thinking how unworthy they have become.
The limiting factor in experience
Experience is a very limiting commodity in its use. It limits vision, aspirations, opportunities for change and, most important, it limits possibilities. Experience only sees itself, harps back to itself and promotes itself while preventing innovation and excitement along the way. Experience is also about the past, not the future because experience is a dead activity. It has already enjoyed it's time. A fresh new perspective, an open mind, a desire to learn what is necessary for the next situation, are all important arsenal in the competent leaders' bunker.
Some people might argue that experience prevents one from making mistakes and helps to demonstrate what is wrong to prevent repetition. That is also true in certain instances, like medicine, where mistakes can be costly in terms of human life. But, mistakes can also make one fearful, especially if one is a perfectionist wishing everything to go ‘right’. Some mistakes are actually necessary to our development because that;s how we learn.
In any situation experience gives you the confidence to be able to see which route MIGHT be beneficial, based on what has already been tried, but it does not guarantee that route will work because it is based on past results. An old result is likely to be the last thing one needs to apply to a new situation, especially when it is likely to have the same effect. Experience stops people from making decisions they should make because they are afraid to stray from the 'accepted' or 'expected' path, which means stagnation and dithering while nothing new is sorted or achieved.
Barack Obama need not worry about his lack of experience. He might become the president but he won't be actually running the country. His civil servants and advisers will be. They will bring the expertise to his table while he uses that fresh, open and caring mind - and his acute instinct - to help decide what's good for a particular situation. He already showed this acumen by his decision not to join the clamour for war in Iraq. It shows a thinker, a man who weighed the consequences against accusations of not being 'patriotic' or perhaps being lily-livered, and stuck to his conscience. Not burdened by 'experience' like Hillary Clinton, or the need to appease interest groups, he could go with his own fresh view and stand tall and proud in the face of it, especially when history has proved him right with a vengeance.
Looking at the attention the 2008 American elections have grabbed, it is easy to see just one reason why these elections are like no other: Barack Obama. But he is just one of the reasons. There are actually three main ones that combine to make this appear the most electrifying race in the history of choosing occupants of the White House.
I cannot remember when, during the last 40 years, as a voting adult in the UK, I have ever been interested in an American election. In fact, the only time I was truly aware of an American president, was in 1963 with the death of John F Kennedy. That was like a horrible blip on the landscape and things went back to normal when the grieving was over. I was also only 15 years old then, a good three years away from being able to vote. I guess my tears were for such a good looking and captivating man being cut down in his prime than him being president, as I was still at the hero worship stage when he and his wife were like British monarchs!
Fast forward to the 1990s and Bill Clinton also appealed, for a variety of reasons, but again, we only noticed him over here once he was in office, when we compared him to JFK, and especially because of Monica Lewinsky. We were not interested in the actual election race. Now in 2008 I am fixed to every debate and action of an amazing election and I believe, like most other people, it isn't just because of the election process itself. There are other significant reasons for it.
First, the Internet has changed the way elections will be fought and money will be raised forever. It has had the most dramatic effect on campaigning through blogging, organising and mobilising support, fund raising and the sheer visibility of the candidates. There has been no other election where the Internet has dominated the pace, the progress and perhaps even the outcome of what is happening daily. The Internet can scarcely be controlled, yet it is formidable in what is possible with it. The Internet has also brought a diverse world closer together and allows everyone to follow global events closely at the touch of a button. It is now easier to appreciate the intricacies of the campaign and focus on the candidates.
Second, the presence of both a Black man and a woman as key contenders with a genuine chance of winning the presidency. Yes, there have been other Black males, and other women have run for the Vice Presidency, but Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton represented the first real Democratic choice, in both gender and colour, that could make it to the White House and had the tremendous support to bring their individual dreams to life too. The fact that Barack is also inspirational and in a class of his own has certainly moved the usual campaigning goal posts and raised hopes well beyond expectations. Not to mention changing some of the traditional approaches to how presidential elections have been run and proving the pundits wrong, time and time again..
Third, the state of America in the world order at present. The United States has fallen from grace for a lot of reasons, not least through the war in Iraq and the dramatic slide in the dollar over recent years. It doesn't command the ultimate power it used to and disillusioned nationals, who have seen their standard of living slide equally with the country's reputation, are crying "Enough!" They now demand a change to see what else is possible, rather than having more of the same. In the new and untried candidacy of Barack Obama they see hope and are galvanising behind him to raise that hope to the highest levels of action.
Put those three reasons together and you have an explosive combination of excitement, apprehension, motivation, leadership, innovation and sheer possibility. A potent mix which might just bubble over into reality after November 4th!
There is a farcical belief that every Black voter would be lining up behind Barack Obama simply because he's Black and they are desperately in need of a Black president in the White House. Nothing could be more ridiculous because that kind of narrow thinking takes no account of human diversity in every culture.
The Black community, if there is such a thing, is like any other community based on class lines: the rich, the middle classes and the lower classes. It might not be as pronounced as in the White section of the population, as their upper echelon has much more power and privilege than their Black peers, but it is still very clear to see in perspectives, behaviour patterns, expectations and achievements. It follows that there will be lots of Black people who won't like Barack Obama, especially if they have leanings towards the Republicans, or are actual members of the party themselves. They would be the saddest people now leading up to the elections because they would be political minorities in every sense of the term.
In view of that, they would have a major dilemma in voting, caused by the recent antics of Sarah Palin, in particular. Each person must be asking him/herself: Do I cast my vote for a man whose party I do not like, whose principles I am not comfortable with but who seems to be very popular at the moment? Who reflects me in colour and seems to treat people like me with respect, which would mean going against my own beliefs and allegiance? Or do I vote for the party that I feel comfortable with in ideology, that represents my concerns and expectations but does not reflect me at all, that is not really recruiting people like me, or treating me with any respect; one that is implying that all people of colour are terrorists, are responsible for the mortgage debacle, responsible for the problems of America and we are a different group part? A party that has been overtly racist and divisive compared to the unity being shown by the Democrats?
My guess is that those pressing questions will become more pronounced with each day that the election approaches. It is no easy dilemma, when one just wants to make the right choice at this crucial time, especially in view of the latest endorsement from Colin Powell, the lack of clear positive leadership from the Republicans, and not really having a 'home' to call their own.
It really isn't an easy time to be a Black Republican sympathiser when there is the possibility of a Black president on the horizon. In fact, it could be the hardest time to be Black in the face of the low road taken by the Republicans so far which appeared to have forgotten about their Black members while they strive to separate people into pro- and anti-America, and covertly by their colour. It would have thrown up a lot of dissonance in who to vote for mainly because we all seek, without exception, to be significant (i.e to matter), to be valued, included and appreciated. The greatest attributes of RESPECT.
The Republicans have not shown that respect to anyone else of late. Thus it should be interesting to see just how minority Republicans, this forgotten group, will be voting in the next two weeks, if they do it at all, and why!
I have heard people say that Barack Obama is the same as everyone else; that the media needs to stop dwelling on his skin and start focusing on his brain. That is true to a great extent, but not really possible when it comes to the first of anything. If there had been other black nominees before him who stood a chance of winning, then Barack's colour would not be an issue. But he will be creating history, should he win, as the first African American president. That fact should not be denied him in a superficial colour-blind approach, nor something that can be ignored or brushed aside for the purposes of fake equality.
People generally find it hard to deal with difference because any kind of difference often appears threatening until it is understood or there is some familiarity with it. So difference tends to be approached in 5 stages:
First: Fear of it and some tension (a desire to retreat from it or explore it)
Second: Interpreting it in known terms (i.e they are like us, so we are comfortable with that, hence colour-blindness)
Third: Acknowledging its value without sharing (no desire to ignore their identity, but a detached alignment)
Fourth: Understanding the difference and accepting it on its own terms
Fifth: Celebrating its presence and value (emulating that difference, respecting it fully, enjoying/adopting their cultural norms as on par with our own etc.)
One cannot move from the first stage to the fifth in rapid succession because without understanding there is no alignment or acceptance. Transition takes quite a while, depending on the degree of interaction between the parties, the level of education between them and the level of fear involved. Where there is little interaction, like never coming in contact with someone black/white, and little education the Fear stage will dominate for a very long time. The Third stage usually happens when people live like distant neighbours but don't really mix together, a kind of 'live and let live' approach, which is common in the UK. Very few people manage to reach the Fifth stage: accepting difference to the extent of celebrating it. Such people tend to be highly confident in themselves, secure in who they are and don't mind crossing cultural boundaries to appreciate the real people behind them and even to emulate them.
Thus the essence of diversity and equality is not the desire for sameness. It is actually acknowledging that difference, then moving away from any difference, once we feel comfortable and secure with it, to share the similarities. But that difference has to be positively acknowledged and respected first, not wished away as though it isn't a key part of that person. Racists merely see the differences, not the similarities. Yet we do not forget gender and pretend a person isn't male or female. We fully acknowledge their sex and move beyond it.
The clear stages in coping with difference means that one has to get over that fear BEFORE they can see the person as 'normal'. So there will be much focus on Barack's race until he is in the job and doing it well or badly, then the focus will shift to other things. But we cannot hurry the interaction process because it is a perfectly natural human one of overcoming the difference first, to align it with our expectations, before we can see past it. Except where some people cannot cope with colour and then pretend it isn't there to make themselves feel comfortable!
For example, Formula 1 fans might not have cared about Lewis Hamilton's colour, but I bet he cared about it - a lot - because he was making history on all fronts and he would have been judged purely on it before he proved himself! He would also have taken great pride in being the first Black person to achieve that accolade.
However, I do agree that Barack also deserves to be heard for his talent and not just noted for his colour because he is pretty inspiring. The key here is not to just emphasise one aspect of a person to the detriment of the other, nor to ignore the bits we can't cope with to show how 'fair' we are. That's a spurious form of equality which robs the person of their own identity so that we can pretend they are really like us; that there is nothing different about them. We need to appreciate everyone fully without denying them parts of their identity.
President Obama, I have watched you in admiration take the reins of power in the USA with breathtaking speed and panache, as if you were born to lead. In less than a week you have swept away some of your predecessor's sacred cows, you have caused the Pope to address you as 'arrogant' but have pleased many Guantanamo protestors as you make good your election promises. All in a few days' work, it seems.
In spite of your approval rating falling by a massive 18% during this first week, you are still riding high. An 83% rating was unsustainable anyway. Only a saint could maintain that for too long when unpleasant decisions have to be made. Moreover, you are not there to just shore up ratings but to get the job done, one that benefits the country and the people, and my personal rating says that you're way out in front with a massive lead in management just now.
But there is one thing which could have been done better, and I put it down to fallibility. We can never get everything right, especially in these stressful times, especially when we are new to situations. I am mentioning it because it is a very important point about leadership to note, and that is: When you lead one of the most powerful countries in the world you have to constantly bear in mind that you are way above petty politics and drama. Certain things and people should always remain invisible to you, no matter how glaring they might be to others. Now that you are the big cheese, the one with the power, you can afford to be magnanimous to others while preserving the dignity of your office. So an important leadership tip is this: Never mention anyone publicly, unless it is for a good and uplifting reason, because you immediately elevate them with your words.
The minute you mention someone negatively, five things happen:
Instead of telling your Republican audience not to listen to Rush Limbaugh by name (a public acknowledgement which immediately elevated him even more to someone worth listening to!), you should simply have said: "It is not good listening to those talking heads who would seek to destroy our country with their selfish and shallow ideals. If I fail, America fails, the house owners fail, the car workers fail, the sick and the vulnerable fail. So do they really have your interest at heart by wanting my demise? Think about it carefully, good people, and decide for yourself." Or something to that effect. By pointing out the pitfalls, yet handing it back to the audience for their decision, you would be trusting their judgement, coming across as less dictatorial and emphasising your own leadership status.
Additionally, no name was mentioned. You were speaking generally about all the silly talking heads whose arrogance and fear are blinding them to reality and you would not have made a unlikely 'hero' of anyone. No publicity is ever bad publicity for those on the receiving end of it, hence why a simple mantra of "Public good, private bad", when dealing with people, is essential for someone in your position. furthermore, it is not your place to personally engage with individuals like that. That's for your team, or, even better, to maintain a dignified silence. You are well above the fray as President and it merely detracts from your positive message. Remember, your main role is to unify, not divide. Any concern or reprimand is down to your communication staff, if they wish to take him on. In that detached way, the public will get your message, but it will be far less divisive.
Mr President, even being so far across the Pond, it really warms the heart to see true leadership in action after the past few years of inaction, negativity and despair. Thank you for what you have done in such a short time. I feel so awfully proud of you. :o)
The furore around Barack Obama's association with Jeremiah Wright, especially the indignant vitriolic cries about him being 'guilty by association' was a most interesting turn of events. But it was like a boil waiting to be lanced because of the unwitting burdens that Americans now lay on the slim shoulders of the man himself, Barack Obama.
The fascination with this candidate has almost become obsessive for some people mainly because he has defied all odds to be in the race, and is growing in stature every day. And while people in denial pretend that his colour doesn't or shouldn't matter, it is actually down to his race why he is in the pickle that he is now.
To understand his dilemma, one has to look at it from two race perspectives: Black and White.
The Black Perspective
They hissed their teeth in derision and carried on past him, while watching his progress guardedly, with one eye closed, and some hopeless fascination. They admired his guts but they would still vote for Hillary or someone else, and they said so - loudly. Then as the money came in they slowly opened the other eye. Mmmm...Perhaps we are missing something here, they thought. Other people believed in him enough to back him. Now the hope began to hover around them, changing their resistance. However, Hillary Clinton was streaking ahead, garnering all the percentages effortlessly for the most of the year, despite Barack making slow inroads into her support. They were still not convinced, pointing to him trailing behind Hillary as evidence of their fears.
Then he did the unthinkable and unexpected: He won Iowa against all odds. There was nervous dancing in the streets, as more money poured in and Black belief soared. By the time he won South Carolina, most of the diehards had changed their tune. He was now accepted and perceived to be totally electable. Joy of joys, they had someone who could actually get the nomination, especially as Whites were clearly supporting him too. He could build bridges and bridge social chasms and the real battle with Hillary began. Money simply poured in from the public tap in February to its highest level of donations.
But with such acceptance of glory came the natural anxiety. Now everything he did was examined, scrutinised and analysed because the expectations were now changed. From a no-hope curiosity figure, he was being introduced everywhere as The Next President of The United States of America. They could see him in the White House already and panic attacks began in case he was derailed or killed. They wanted his success so much to happen in their lifetime, to see a Black person in the seat of power, to show Blacks could reach the highest pinnacle in the land.
Those expectations of success, of him saying the right things and doing the right things began to take effect. They so much wanted him to be perfect, so that racists didn't have a chance against him; this knight in shining armour that would unite America as the next president. They wished they could win it for him. Ultra sensitive to every criticism by the opposition, they are now fretting and worrying, pouting and praying, that their man gets through, but only fairly and squarely, of course. Hence the indignant reaction around the Wright affair in case Barack is derailed through someone else's behaviour.
The White Perspective
But then the White youths became engaged, seeing his potential, and the idea of real change from the status quo began to take effect. white America opened one eye in surprise. That denial slowly changed to seeing the possibilities, followed by real hope as he picked up wins and support and finally acceptance of him as a genuine contender after Super Tuesday. This man was somehow different. One couldn't write him off at all. He had a certain something that would make him the first Black president. But for him to do that, he had to fulfill their expectations too. Both eyes were now open in admiration. He had to be just the perfect Black guy to represent them. That meant no suspect history, no dubious past, no unacceptable thoughts or unacceptable friends and no 'racial' biases.
Along the way he became a saint and had to remain a saint, unlike the other White candidates, to merit the position. If they were going to support his fight for president, he had to play by their rules. However, no matter how much they accepted the possibility that he was good enough to get the presidency, the doubts kept lingering as to his suitability so they had to dig around him to see how much he measured up to the impossible ideal of sainthood they had now bestowed upon him. Unlike other White candidates, he had to keep denying he was a Muslim, not be seen to wear any kind of foreign clothes, prove his whiteness/blackness, and emphasise he was no terrorist with any terrorist links etc. The only thing left he has yet to be accused of is not being human! Their desire for him to win too has blown up their own anxiety around how he 'merits' it, in ways they are not asking other White candidates to prove such merit.
After a year in the hot seat, Barack is now firmly in the middle of the American population being bombarded with separate anxieties from both sections of his society: one section hopes he gets the position and can hold on to it in style and capability, especially as he is Black, and the other side hopes that he 'proves' he has earned it, even if it means judging him guilty of other people's acts and deeds, because he is Black. Obama has raised his own threshold of credibility so much, every supporter, White and Black, wants him to win but according to their own expectations. A very difficult thing to fulfil.
In fact, without realising it, Barack Obama crossed a psychological threshold of full acceptance for White America when he spoke in Indiana recently. Outside the venue were some White protesters holding placards relating to the Wright debacle. Usually, to elect or reject any nominee, one simply votes ones displeasure at the ballot box. No other action is necessary. No need to protest. But it is a measure of the rapid rise of Barack and the esteem in which he is held that he is now perceived to have more power than he actually has.
The irony they missed, is that protests are usually done against people in power, the ones with the title, authority and power to change things, those already in office and able to act, not vulnerable contenders fighting for nominations. While they protested, Barack was inside signing books, talking to people, looking unaffected and suitably........presidential.
Americans are fascinated with Barack Obama because he fits no mould that has gone before, nothing about him can be predicted, he has defied all expectations so far, Black peers feel proud of him, White supporters actually like and respect him and he just might pull it off the way he is going.
Many African Americans are happy Barack Obama is running for president, but they regard him as 'half black' or not 'not black enough', and not someone who has gone through a 'typical black American experience'. But what is a 'typical' black American experience? No one in the world has a typical experience. Each person's life is unique and no matter what part it might share in a human trend, no one knows the other person's pain, joys, laughter or sorrow.
It is a kind of arrogance to believe that because we all share an outward skin colour that we all share the same 'typical' experiences. Not even when we are in the same proximity with each other, we don't share anything exactly with our neighbour. We might share a world perspective, and a particular cultural view, or even similar aspirations, but we are not clones of each other. That difference is guaranteed by personal perception which dictates our reality.
Black people have no monopoly of life experiences than any other race. ALL the experiences within a culture identifies that culture- whether relating to rich, poor, great or small, strong or weak. The total of the sum of each part defines us. But those limiting thoughts of not being 'typical' could be what has kept many Black people down all this time: those negative thoughts assume that only people with really bad experiences can really be Black. Cripes. Give me strength.
And then this obnoxious thing about being 'half black' or 'not black' enough. What an insult to human beings and the variety of emotions and perspectives that make us up. Please don't start me off on this ghastly topic. My mother was regarded as 'white' though she had some mixed race from her grand parents and that simple fact robbed me of a grandfather. When she fell in love with my dad (who was Black) her father disowned her, cut her out of his life and they never spoke again. That is the effect of simple, sad minds on colour. They only see that colour, not the wonderful people beneath it. Yet the consequences can be truly tragic for those on the receiving end of that racism.
Perhaps it is truly time for Black people to stop allowing themselves to be merely defined by their colour; to stop being racist to themselves, stop rejecting themselves because of their shade and quantity of 'black' and to give that respect to themselves that they seek first before they can ever hope to get real respect from others.
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Writing in my very first article regarding the momentous 2008 elections, I noted then: "But I share one thing with Mr Obama, the belief that anything is possible if we just believe it, have faith in it and act upon it. I believe in the power of thoughts to get us where we want to go and Obama has obviously been exercising his thoughts, big time!"
Twenty-one months later and President-Elect Obama has proven it beyond any doubt that there are only three things one needs in life to be successful, and none of them depend on anyone else directly. It totally depends on the individual. In order of priority, they are:
1. SELF-BELIEF. Without believing in ourselves, no one can believe in us. We have to genuinely feel we can do the job, can climb that mountain or can take charge, no matter what experience we have or where we are coming from, in order to achieve what we desire. Barack Obama might have been a 'junior Senator' but there was nothing junior about his self-belief. He was a leader waiting to to be released. Because he believed in himself so completely, he was able to take the prize when others faltered or fell behind. He was able to ignore the negativity and naysayers around him and concentrate on what he KNEW he could gain, which shows the power of his self-belief. He believed that everything was possible, even the highest political office that had been elusive to Black people like him, and set out to get it with confidence and determination, once the second crucial factor was in place - his vision
2. PERSONAL VISION: One cannot persuade others without a goal or vision to lead them towards. Having a vision, especially one that is relevant to others and to which they can relate, demonstrates what is possible, reinforces self-belief and gives the primary reason for public trust. Personal vision provides the essential purpose to lead and to take others with us. Once people can share our vision and apply it to themselves, we are almost there. For Obama his vision and purpose for running was the single word CHANGE, and a lot of voters desperately needed that change. He took one look at the presidency, decided he could do much better and then set out to do the third crucial thing - persuade others of his capability.
3. PERSUADING OTHERS: The final part of the success triangle is trying to get others to share that self-belief and vision. Obama had an uphill task given all the things against him from the very beginning, not least of all his perceived 'lack of experience' and his colour. But he managed to get a team to believe in him, then to get others to fund and endorse him and finally got the voters to put their trust in him. His own calm assurance, disciplined organisation, inspiring oratorial skills and obvious leadership qualities won others over every step of the way. All because of that self-belief and personal vision. What was happening to the country clearly wasn't working. The people felt he could do far better and voted to give him that opportunity.
Barack Obama has not only shown what is possible, he has also taught America that it doesn't take 'experience' to be the best leader. Self-belief is the greatest prelude to learning the ropes and making it happen. So long as that goal is firmly in place, believing it is attainable and showing what is possible will always inspire others, which is exactly what he did. In one master stroke he has made it easier for every other presidential candidate to show what they can do, whoever they are, because no one will be too quick to write anyone off again after his remarkable performance
If the Republicans are still reeling from Colin Powell's unexpected full endorsement of Barack Obama, they needn't worry about that too much. This is history already in the making. Barack Obama has won this election, barring the greatest fluke or skulduggery, and didn't really need any endorsement at this stage from anyone. But it's like an icing on the cake.
The Republicans have far bigger things to worry about than that, three of them, in fact, and all of them pivotal to any re-emergence of a stronger, more inclusive GOP. These hidden factors were beyond the understanding of the McPalin's team, and they will remain ignorant of it until they remove their ostrich heads from the sand and wake up to the new reality that is dawning in politics.
The three hidden formidable factors, in order of power and influence, are:
1. The Internet. As of September, Barack Obama's website has had donations from 3.1 million members. That is awesome by any stretch of the imagination. That's bigger than the population of 85 countries(38%) in the world, including Jamaica, Kuwait, Botswana, Mauritius and Cyprus! In less than two years, this virtually unknown guy, the only Black male in the American Senate, not only took on the big boys and girls and beat them at their game, but has built a dynasty in the process, of members so fiercely loyal to him, one has to wonder how he does it. The Republicans have vastly underestimated the power of the Internet and Obama's ability to persuade and inspire. Being used to money from the traditional watering holes of cronies, corporates and cabals, the tsunami of Internet money has completely engulfed the efforts of McPalin and left them standing wet, naked and exposed in incompetent wonderment.
The Internet means instant communication, and COMMUNICATION, is the key word in keeping those troops informed, collecting the donations daily, providing emotional support and encouragement and, above all, giving a sense of ownership, inclusion and appreciation. It is quite an amazing experience to sit here all the way in England and see the mountain of emails coming to my inbox daily from Whites, Blacks, Chinese, French, Hispanics, Brits, Ghanaians, indians, Spanish, you name it, all with one voice about what they are each doing for their candidate, how much they have donated, advising one another, keeping the subjects on topic and positive, and following Obama's progress with owl-like intensity. It is truly quite astounding and sometimes even scary to see what is now possible on a global scale.
Power to The People!
Not only that, they volunteer daily to sit on the phones, to knock on doors promoting the message, to have house parties at broadcast times, to attend fund raising events or to spread the word through print. It's all about ACTION which they control, not words. The network is growing ever wider and stronger and is cementing itself as a formidable force for change. By involving so many people across America, and the world, day in and day out, each with their own stake and their own dreams, Barack has brought his personal dreams to fulfilment ,while pledging to realise theirs.
This has been the People's Election which is why the tired old-fashioned and narrow ways of the Republicans could never hope to compete because their intention appears to divide Americans into pro- and anti-America, or racists and terrorists. No sense of unity, one cause or purpose. Obama's grassroot surge is like a close family protecting its star, where everyone across a rainbow culture and a receptive world, and where cultural barriers have been crushed, knows each other. It is like nothing else that has gone before it and just incredible to see its gradual development. People like to feel valued and significant and the Democratic campaign has made them feel just that!
As one female supporter puts it sincerely, and succinctly:
The Colour of Money
Every time there was something negative, racist or untruth said in the Republican camp, supporters of Barack Obama donated even more. They saw that as the only way to 'fight' such misrepresentation: by making it easier for Obama to make rebuttal adverts and refute statements. I guess not even they knew how much that action would have yielded. So the Republicans must have thought they were being very clever attacking Obama constantly, yet all they were doing with such silly and short-sighted action was filling his coffers even more.
Using the decidedly simple but highly organised grassroots Internet strategy that Team Obama has developed and maintained in a most effective way, they could make anyone a president, if they have the talent! Expect to see much more of this type of kingmaker action. The GOP should be lining up for lessons! Leadership starts from the self. How one manage's one's household, or run one's own campaign, is a signal to how the White House will be run too, and there has not been a more efficiently-run campaign than Barack Obama's. Just on that management form, he deserves to win.
The Republicans need to wake up now and realise that they are in a new age, a new dawn of ideas dictated by technology and a new burning desire for change from the old ways. Fifty years from now we might all change back again to something more traditional as the life cycle relentlessly whirls around us. But just now, this is not some electoral fluke in Obama's favour. These are vibrant times with the Internet, blogs and individual voice and effort at the core of it. Anyone who is not equipped to be part of these times will be left behind in a fossilised rut, clinging on perilously to outmoded and outdated ideology while they wonder just what has hit them!
Walking around Washington DC yesterday I was struck by how quickly things had returned to normal. Overnight, almost all the roadblocks had been removed, there were no longer two policemen standing at the end of our courtyard dressed in balaclava-like face wear and looking like potential robbers, no longer crowds filling up the sidewalks and spilling out onto the streets, being shouted at by policemen to keep on the sidewalks, silence has replaced the gay laughter and optimism of milling crowds, the superfluous numbers of police cars were markedly absent and busy people just went about their business. In fact, I guess it was like any other day in the city before the Inauguration, like the peaceful calm after a gigantic storm.
I spent the day deliberately relaxing and doing very little after the hectic days I had enjoyed. I was also beginning to feel a bit homesick, wanting my own space and stuff around me, I guess. So it was largely a day of reflection, particularly on a rather caustic article in the Telegraph This Emperor has no clothes, which said that Obama will fail; that it will all end in tears, because people are deluding themselves about the situation and Obama's ability to impact on it.
The touching kindness of others
That is why I do not agree with saving failing companies because every business in society is indicative of the age we live in, social tastes, style and culture. If car companies are having real problems selling cars, it is indicative of where the the public is now regarding their need for cars and if, like Royal Doulton chinaware in Britain, people are no longer using china, why on earth should that company be propped up? All we do is prevent new businesses, the green shoots of current lifestyles, from coming into being and reflecting current priorities. Nature should be allowed to do its work. It's fear and a lack of belief and being stuck in the past that hold us back.
The world has an inexorable job of continuing on and on and on, whether we like it or not. It means that we always go through four phases, though it might not seem like it, as it depends on the severity for us to actually feel the effects: birth, growth, death and rebirth. That is the essence of Nature, but, fearing pain, most people just want everything except the death part, which is neither possible or realistic. America is in its economic death throes now but, just like the 1930s, it is about to enter a state of rebirth. That is inevitable, as night follows day. It can either slowly come into being of its own volition, making the process far more painful, or it can be speeded up with some gentle nudging. That's what the new president's optimism is meant to do: keep people hanging in there with belief, hope, faith and action while they work towards minimising the worst. The world will always regenerate itself, that's how we grow and evolve, but death has to come first before rebirth.
Doing nothing, or just living in pessimism and doom and gloom like the sceptics, is NOT an option and I applaud President Obama for his determined and positive stance. He will achieve far more in the end with this fearless attitude than the naysayers' prediction because he is prepared to give it a try, not accept everything as a fait accompli. People forget that this unknown stranger with little 'experience' bested his rivals with the simple slogan, YES WE CAN! Barack Obama is a force not yet understood by the public or critics. As one who shares his vision, appreciates his approach and understands his journey, I can assure them, they have far more surprises to come from this amazing man who clearly believes in himself and humanity.
The touching kindness of others
I have had a once in a lifetime experience and I am most grateful for it. Thanks to my little fan club on Newsvine who have kept my company on the trip through advising, reading and commenting on my reports. My input might be miniscule compared to others with greater resources, but what matters is my individual experience. Coupled with the individual experiences of everyone else, they all go towards making up the awesome whole of our world. I have done my little bit and I feel good. Beats being in England just watching it any day.
Thanks to Mike D'Amelio, my host, and to Haywood Thomas, a great gentleman, for their hospitality and care. It is all about team work, and what a team we were. I have added a few more memorable pictures.
Now for my return flight and the long trip home, with a huge smile of satisfaction. :o)
You have your critics at this early stage in your presidential term, gathering around you like a storm of sharks to the bait, waiting to have you fall at every step and ultimately to fail. Nothing you do will ever be right for them because criticism is a far more powerful drug for the insignificant losers with the big egos than admitting defeat and joining hands to build the country.
Your detractors are many, but I just wanted to reassure you, from the people who worked for you, voted for you, campaigned for you, prayed for you, stood up for you and blogged for you, the people who daily fondly refer to you as 'Our President', that far more people love you than would wish to criticise you. Heck, even though I am a Brit, way across the Pond, I would like to believe that you are my President too (though we would have to get rid of the monarchy first - LOL). Many of your countrymen, I know, wouldn't like that because they do love our Queen. So I guess they can understand why we would love you, too.
You have made a lot of decisions in your short time as President, so much activity that people are prepared to judge you on those two weeks only, as if that makes a President! Everyone else has had four years or eight years to learn the job and improve their art, years in which to even cock things up. You apparently are so superhuman, you only need two weeks, and confident, knowledgeable 'experts' are already making predictions from that! Yet how many of them could show what they are capable of in two months, let alone two weeks? Some might even take two years!
I guess with you being new, fresh, exciting and visionary, they hold you to a higher bar, a greater yardstick, than anyone before you. You promised change, so change must come immediately, from minute one. Everything must happen yesterday, regardless of how long it takes to be arranged. It's like you have a magic wand to make all their problems go away in an instant. They want all the change now, within the first month, otherwise, in their eyes, you have failed miserably. Whatever happened in nearly a decade under your predecessor they expect to be swept away overnight to prove the change you promised.
Heck, they don't even allow for your mistakes. You have never been President before, the junior Senator from Illinois, but they expected you to get it right from day one, while your more experienced colleague, the one who took America in an unwanted and expensive war, took years to botch it up. But that was all right. Well, Mr President, you can make as many mistakes as you like, because that's how we grow. If all those pioneering medical doctors did not make mistakes, did not experiment over and over, were not prepared to take risks, we would not be enjoying the unparalleled health care so many of us take for granted in the 21st century. If Thomas Edison had stopped trying after the first attempt to give us the light bulb, we would still be writing with candles instead of enjoying what took him 10,000 attempts! So you go, Mr President, and do what has to be done!
In fact, I predict that you will be a formidable President, if not the greatest Commander in Chief, because of ONE main reason: You have the humility and courage to admit when you are wrong and, most important, to publicly apologise and say "I screwed up", loud and clear! Which of your predecessors have ever done that, and so quickly? Some even pretend there is nothing to apologise for; some have tried to wriggle out of their wrong doing. But, you squared up to your responsibilities full on and acknowledged that you didn't get it right first time. That was one hell of a powerful message about accountability you were personally giving and I applaud you for it. You acknowledged your fallibilities and you acted. What an empowering combination for a man of such status! You will be a great leader to work for too because you will nurture your team's talent instead of expecting the impossible from them.
So, Mr President, keep doing what you are doing, because you will get it right in the end and the country will be all the greater for it! Never shirk your task or look back and never mind the critics either. They have already fossilised in fear. They're not doing anything just now than being the victims. But, for you, the only way is up!
Yours, with love and best wishes for a difficult job,
Ms CYPRAH (aka Elaine)
PS...I would still fire Timothy Geithner, though. He really shouldn't be there. But, of course, sorry, you know best, Sir! :o)
In one of my other articles I asked readers what they would like to say to President Obama in 30 words or less. Many people obviously had lots to say because it attracted hundreds of comments, most of them positive. However, a good percentage (about 35%) were negative perhaps because the critics were expecting miracles in a mere three months and felt disappointed at not getting them!
Barack Obama promised Change as the foundation of his time in office. But, unless change is natural (like an earthquake or tsunami) or revolutionary (like dramatic protest or innovation), normal enforced change is more perceptible than obvious. It creeps upon us when we least expect it and takes time, but it contains a vital ingredient necessary to its lifeblood, one that President Obama exudes, and that is the leadership to enable it. Though, to many critics, not much change has happened in the first 100 days, the President's willingness to tackle issues dear to his heart, every day of his term in office, will ensure that change will be far reaching by the time he leaves the White House.
In political terms, hardly anything of substance ever happens in the first six months of a tenure. If anything does happen, that's an easy thing to do, or it would have started the change process already, well before the new incumbent takes over. The only thing one can do in those first crucial months is to learn the ropes and lay the foundation for change, but the change itself will automatically take longer for one major reason: the need for the mindsets to change too in order to accommodate the new processes.
In short, it is not just about changing structures and systems, it is also about changing perspectives to accept the new order. We have to take people with us with any change: the people likely to enable the change, the ones likely to benefit from the change and, above all, the ones likely to lose out from it. ALL elements have to be considered in any kind of national change that affects millions. So real change is never as easy as some people expect it.
If we could put the process of enforced change in a numerical formula for it to work, it would go something like this: 25% of tradition, 40% of new ideas, 30% leadership and 5% to luck! Gradually the 25% will erode as time passes, to be overtaken by the 40% of new innovation. It can seem frustrating at the beginning, especially to those who desire quicker action, but just like weight loss, enforced change is more effective when it happens bit by bit, not too dramatic.
What the critics fail to realise is that if you took away the 25% of existing processes and made everything brand new in order to force change quicker than it should be, it would cause simple chaos because we would have jettisoned the old without having sufficient structure and resources to sustain the new. Change would have happened too rapidly for everyone to comprehend, accept or maintain it. One cannot change embedded systems and processes overnight. They took a lot of time to develop and they will take some time to dismantle. But what makes any new change a gradual certainty is the firm leadership to ensure consistent progress and, on that point, Barack Obama is in a class of his own.
By constantly listening to the public, which he is doing on his websites and in public meetings, and consistently providing the leadership necessary to challenge practices which are no longer benefiting the country, President Obama is well placed to deliver the change he promised. But a three month time span is highly unrealistic and the refuge of fools who merely wish to be self-righteously critical without any substance of their own. Judge him in two years time, four years or eight years when the foundations being laid now have had a chance to thrive. But how many things change in 100 days when bureaucracy is so laborious in the political sphere and people's mindsets are so entrenched in their own comfort zones and protective of what already benefits them?
Hardly any, by experience.
(Photo images used on EmotionalHealthGuide.com courtesy of dreamstime free photos).
(Photo images used on EmotionalHealthGuide.com courtesy of dreamstime free photos).