Four Keys for Obama and Us
On Wednesday night, President Obama will give his first State of the Union Address. I’m less concerned about his specific speech than I am about the overall trajectory of the nation – and whether he speaks to it. At issue is how we get the nation on the right trajectory. Here are my four keys.
You’ll remember that after the 2008 presidential election, people thought there would be a fundamental shift in the nation’s politics and people’s engagement. I didn’t buy that notion then, or in 2004 when President Bush assumed he had a clear mandate after defeating Senator John Kerry. Make no mistake: people yearn for a new kind of politics, but there’s little consensus in the country about what to do.
At issue is how to navigate these troubled waters and make hope real.
Here are four keys for President Obama, and others, who seek to move the nation forward and restore a sense of possibility in politics and public life.
1. Your authority (and support) is rooted in your knowledge of people’s lives.That is to say, it is not derived from playing power politics, adhering to ideology or voicing populist rhetoric; none these options will bring people together to produce and support positive change. And yet, that’s the game right now. Instead, people want to know that you understand their lives, the issues and concerns they’re wrestling with, and the pace of change they can support and endure. To produce hope and change requires making people and communities the key point of orientation.
So much of what is happening in the nation’s politics and public life is negative and counter-productive. It’s time to put the nation on a different trajectory which will require actively tapping into the nation’s potential and spirit. Only then can we make hope real. More Washington-centric politics will not get any of us where we want to go.