Let’s face it – Obama got himself in a jam.  He spoke on national TV about matters relating to a local community, local police, and race relations.  Any one of those topics is dangerous to speak about, let alone all three at once.  To top it all off, he spoke without knowing all the facts.  Admitting to not knowing all the facts and then continuing to form opinions about the situation doesn’t exempt you from responsibility.  The only bonus points we can award Obama is for the guts to say something so bold (some call it stupid?) on national TV.

Wait, there’s more bad news.  Obama acted stupidly by saying that the  “police acted stupidly.”  Stupid is a harsh word that has no upside or chance to be interpreted in a positive light.  Add stupid in front of anything, and it’s going to be taken negatively.  If someone told you that you made a “stupid decision,” your first reaction is to get defensive.  If that same person told you that you could have acted “differently” or in a “better way,” your reaction will be less defensive.  Words matter.  The details matter.

But… let’s put all this childish analysis aside.  Besides the fact that Obama goofed (for the reasons mentioned above), there’s something powerful in what transpired as a result of this entire fiasco.  Obama personally called both parties (Professor Gates and Officer Crowley) and invited them to a beer at the White House.  Yes, he had to.  He had to in order to save himself and ever-so-cleverly do something about the mistakes he made (again, mentioned above).  But, in calling both parties and holding a casual meeting, he did something else that’s “teachable.”

Obama showed how two parties that were at polar opposites of each other just one week ago can get together in a peaceful manner and hold dialogue.  He showed the world how grown ups should act when they have disagreements.  It can happen.  It did happen.  And what was the outcome?

The outcome wasn’t some “It’s a small world” dance or “We are the world” reconciliation between both parties.  In fact, both sides still completely disagreed with each other after the beer.  The outcome, instead, was the lesson that it’s okay to disagree. Both parties agreed to disagree in a civil and grown-up manner.

What a novel idea: it’s okay to disagree.  Wait… it’s okay to disagree?  Then how do I convince others to do what I’m doing?  How do I convince others that I’m right?

The short answer: you don’t.  You can’t.  All you can do is show your side of the story.  Then, it’s up to the other side to rationalize it, agree or disagree with it, and follow or not follow it.

And here’s the secret: 90% of the battle in any disagreement is getting both sides together.

The rest is easy because most people are intrinsically good by nature and want to have mutual respect for each other.  The hard part is putting aside ego, having the courage to approach each other directly instead of using some third party to send messages through, and having the intellectual maturity to accept another “right” opinion.

There isn’t always one right answer.  Read the poll findings in the 4th to last paragraph in Donna Brazile’s article here, and you’ll understand.  Both parties are right in their own way.  Each party brings their own experiences, preconditions, and stereotypes to the situation.  It’s wrong to do so, but guess what – it always happens.  And it always will.  So why fight over it?  Instead, just swallow your ego, talk directly with the person(s) you’re in disagreement with, and agree to disagree if you still can’t come to one conclusion.  But understand that it’s okay to disagree. We don’t always have to come out of a discussion as the “winner” or the person who was able to convince or transform the other side.  Life isn’t black and white; it’s the entire spectrum of colors between those two.  Let’s not live in monochrome.

Article Link: Read the article
Source: Marc Ambinder, TheAtlantic.com

Whether you like him or not, you have to admit he’s moving at God-speed during his first months in office.  He’s getting things done, regardless of whether you agree with what he’s doing or not.  That, in itself, is a refreshing change from a culture of latency that the Government has grown to adopt.

How is he doing it?

The amazing thing is that each one of us already knows how to get things done in our lives.  We’re good at it for certains things, and really bad at it when it comes to other things.  Give yourself a couple of minutes to reflect about the article for this month and I’m sure you can find parallels to just about anything else in life: family, friends, business, social work, spirituality, etc.

Everyone agrees that the President of the United States is in a position to influence others.  What he says, what he does, who we gives importance to, who he avoids, who he ridicules, what he wears, how he speaks, and how he reacts  influences people around the world.  We subconsciously make a note of what people with influence do (celebrities, leaders, role models, etc.).

On February 24, Obama used his position of influence to give recognition to someone who did something unthinkable.  It wasn’t a member of Congress or a figure from the political world.  It wasn’t a celebrity.  It was a bank manager from Florida who did something extraordinary.  He gave away his $60 million bonus to his employees and even his former employees who had left the company more than a year ago.

The very fact that Obama even brought up Leonard Abess is what matters.  It matters a lot.  It matters because the President of the United States is saying it.  It matters because people subconsciously take notice that a good deed was recognized by the highest office in the land.  It matters because the President is recognizing someone who did something morally right at the cost of personal well-being or profit.  It matters because the President gave the limelight to someone who put others in front of himself.

Are we in a position to influence others?  If our immediate answer was NO, take a step back, breathe, and re-think.

Everyone is in a position to influence someone.  While that “someone” may not agree with or abide by the influence we have on them, our actions and behavior do influence them.  Something doesn’t have to be consciously accepted for it to exist.

Think about who is in our sphere of influence.  Kids, grandchildren, students, your spouse, colleagues, friends, parents, bosses, etc.  Now, think about how you act, what you say, and what things you give importance to when you’re in their company.

We’ll each fill in our own blanks as to what the next steps should be.

A balanced mind

December 1, 2008

Article Link: Thinking about Obama
Source: David Brooks, columnist for NY Times

Maintaining a balanced mind in times of joy and sorrow, success and failure, etc., is advocated by many of the world’s philosophies.  We seldom see it practiced in real life except for a handful of colleagues or family members who either seem “balanced” by nature or make an honest attempt to be.

Regardless of which way you voted, there are lessons to be learned from the political theater we’ve witnessed for the past two years. Both candidates have great qualities.

McCain = passion, service to country, and a great citizen
Obama = calm, collective, and clear-minded

This article is an attempt to highlight just one quality of one of the candidates.

Sure, at the end of the day, we can conclude that it’s all politics and perhaps staged.  But for someone to be on a national stage for more than 2 years and maintain a sense of balance is no easy task.  In itself, the last two years have been the longest job interview any presidential applicant can ask for.