Storytelling and Hope - Everywhere in Life25 Jul 2018
I generally agree with The Economist’s characterization of Mr. Obama’s tenure as President of the United States. As this characterization notes, Mr. Obama’s presidency was very much defined by the speeches he gave — from the 2004 Democratic Convention Keynote, to his victory speech in 2008 onward to his Nobel Peace Prize lecture and his assertion that “every time I think about those kids it gets me mad” in the wake of the Sandy Hook Shooting (starts at 0:20, quote at 1:02) (this was one of the first quotes I wrote down in my notes), there’s even a highlight video — and indeed this has probably been his best skill/trait (along with being an honorable man who clearly cares deeply for his country and his family). I don’t want to just regurgitate The Economist’s view that Mr. Obama was sometimes plagued by difficult external forces sometimes mismanaged, did too much in Libya, too little in Syria and the executive orders he fell back to amidst political gridlock late in his second term, but I think this summary is worth stating for those who won’t click the link and read the wonderful Economist article (smh).
The key takeaway I have reflecting on Mr. Obama’s legacy is the importance of telling a good story and the importance of hope. It’s interesting that Mr. Obama reflects on both of these things in this lecture on the story Nelson Mandela projected and the inspiration that brought:
To address hope: hope is so powerful that unchecked hope can become dangerous if we overextend ourselves and live in the future we hope for rather than the present (I find myself struggling with this sometimes). Einstein reflected on this by advising: Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Perhaps the disappointment the Obama Presidency brought some Democrats stemmed from a lack of this questioning amidst geopolitical and congressional reality (along with a good serving of not properly managing exceptions - probably the subject of a future post).
To address storytelling (more formally ~narrative construction~): across our lives in relations with our family, clients, and coworkers, crafting a strong narrative and getting others’ support is essential to moving forward and is the foundation of leadership. Mr. Obama has clearly mastered this act. Perhaps he will be more widely admired (though his approval rating has certainly benefited from the current administration) as Carter has through his humanitarian work and ability to help people dream about a better tomorrow. I wish him the best and look forward to many more lectures like this one :)
The full text of the lecture. It’s a good story.
I found this particularly powerful — agree with it or not, it’s a very clear articulation of Mr. Obama’s view of the world and offers a lot to discuss:
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