Sunday, January 27, 2008

Obama - Leaders and the Hope revolution

I was recently referred to a great article by George Parker in the New Yorker on the choice between Clinton and Obama in the American elections. Parker explores the different types of leadership, which is most effective, and the constant battle between substance and style. Should leaders inspire us, or should they more realistically inform us of our available options? Should they ideally do both?

This excerpt is illuminating:

"The next morning, Obama was scheduled to appear before an overflow crowd at the opera house in Lebanon. When he walked onto the stage, which was framed by giant vertical banners proclaiming “HOPE,” his liquid stride and handshake-hugs suggested a man completely at ease.

“I decided to run because of you,” he told the crowd. “I’m betting on you. I think the American people are honest and generous and less divided than our politics suggests.” He mocked the response to his campaign from “Washington,” which everyone in the room understood to be Clinton, who had warned in the debate two nights before against “false hopes”: “No, no, no! You can’t do that, you’re not allowed. Obama may be inspiring to you, but here’s the problem—Obama has not been in Washington enough. He needs to be stewed and seasoned a little more, we need to boil the hope out of him until he sounds like us—then he will be ready.”

The opera house exploded in laughter. “We love you,” a woman shouted.

“I love you back,” he said, feeding off the adoration that he had summoned without breaking a sweat. “This change thing is catching on, because everybody’s talking about change. ‘I’m for change.’ ‘Put me down for change.’ ‘I’m a change person, too.’ ”

...Obama spoke for only twenty-five minutes and took no questions; he had figured out how to leave an audience at the peak of its emotion, craving more. As he was ending, I walked outside and found five hundred people standing on the sidewalk and the front steps of the opera house, listening to his last words in silence, as if news of victory in the Pacific were coming over the loudspeakers. Within minutes, I couldn’t recall a single thing that he had said, and the speech dissolved into pure feeling, which stayed with me for days."

Click here to read the full article.

1 comment:

bootsy said...

Another quote from this article on the apparent coming of Hillary (or Billary as I've heard it coined elsewhere) explains why I have been inspired to believe that Barack offers hope (no I haven't been brainwashed by his campaign). Hope for making some radical, positive new direction for US and the international politics where it is required - and that he does have not only sound policy positions, but also acumen, to support his incredibly well honed speaking capability.

"A former Clinton Administration official explained his decision to support Obama by urging me to read the two candidates’ autobiographies side by side. Obama’s “Dreams from My Father,” unlike Clinton’s “Living History,” he said, reveals a narrator who has struggled through difficult questions of identity and resolved them, and who, as a result, is comfortable not just with himself but with the complexity and contradiction of the world."

The well-known example is where he spoke out in 2002 before the iraq war to say he knew this would be a dumb war that would end up bloodily unleashing the unresolved civil tensions the exist in that country and that it would be a prolonged conflict that could not be solved by war.

This reflects the way he seems to think and position himself with such assurance (which is a prerequisite for such strong oratory). Understand the issue and in particular the objectives sought. Then figure out for himself why he believes a particular approach is correct, no matter what conventional wisdom says.