I’m dispensing with a fancy introduction to my blog because what could be more dreary? I’ll say only that my cryptic title has something to do with William Carlos Williams’ useful notion of "no ideas but in things" and that my favorite things are the Red Wing boots that I wear year-round, which I call my "writing boots." Enough.
Regarding Obama, the first thing you might say if you’re a writer or a communicator type or a Hillary fan or a Republican is that his presumptive nomination—and his rise to it, on the strength of a speech delivered four years ago at a convention and dozens of speeches delivered since—shows the power of words and of speeches.
On the face of it, Hillary Clinton brought three decades of public service to the table, Obama brought some speeches, and the speeches won.
But that take gives credit to the words that the words don’t deserve. Think of the other, much more relevant traits of Obama’s, that made the words work:
• He seems calm. There’s a placidity to him that allows him to pause before saying something stupid, gives him the patience to wait until he has something smart to say. My mother used to advise me to "wear the world like a loose garment." Unlike me, Obama has that quality.
• He seems to know himself pretty well. Being an ethical politician does not mean saying exactly what’s on your mind at all times. It means knowing what’s on your mind, so you can say it when the time is right. Obama does seem to know what he thinks.
• He has courage. Don’t think so? I’d like to see you try to deliver a speech on the rather unoriginal theme of "yes, we can"—even if it is to a throng of worshipful supporters. You know darn well that a zillion pundits and bloggers are going to dismiss you and your simple-minded message. And you deliver it anyway, because you believe it’s going to work.
That’s the formula to be a great politician, a charismatic executive "thought leader," a great columnist, an interesting blogger: If you don’t have some combination of calm, self-knowledge and courage, ain’t no fancy words gonna work magic on any audience over any length of time.
First things first – Hurrah! David’s blogging again!
Ahem, now then, we (that’s “we” as another version of “they say” in case you were wondering)keep whining and moaning that politics and the political system are dysfunctional, and we wish policicans and politics in general could be “different”, “more in tune with the real world”, “address real issues in normal language” .
Well, here he is – Obama is exactly what we’ve all been saying we wanted for years (I bet even some Republicans, in their heart of hearts, agree that some of THEIR over-the-top representatives could do with a dose of “real-world-itis” even if Obama isn’t their choice as replacement).
This is one of those tricky moments that are fraught with scary choices, you know like when Granny told you: “Careful what you wish for, cause you just might get it!”
If we don’t at least give Obama the opportunity to TRY to do politics differently, then we have been blowing smoke with our insistence we want change, and we all deserve to have more of the same old BS, pandering, useless polticial system garbage we’ve all been forced to wallow in for the past decade.
Mike Klein says
Welcome back to the blogosphere–it was getting a bit chilly here without you to warm things up…
As a hardened Obamanaut (and one who doesn’t agree with him on everything), I loved this–but didn’t think it went far enough.
Yes, Barack seems far more centered than the average pol. But his centeredness and his stage presence in large basketball arenas belies a formidable intelligence and an ability to synthesize ideas from different and seemingly conflicting sources.
This is a big part of what makes his presence electric. He owns his content. He ain’t faking it. And, speaking of courage–for a forty-something African-American with an attractive wife and young children to take on the Republican Party (and it’s auxilliary, the National Rifle Association) in the highest-stakes presidential race in decades, little more needs to be said.
The lesson for communicators–effective communication takes places when one is talking the talk…and walking the walk.