Friday, July 16, 2010

Look Out not Up, Obama!

When Barack Obama promised that he understood the need for change, many of us believed him. We saw his experience in lower groups of hierarchies – single mom, African American of mixed race, non-wealthy childhood – and concluded that he gets it that we need a monumental move away from hierarchies that favor those at the top.

If George W. Bush had tried the same campaign message, his promises would not have been credible because he has lived his life clueless on top of every major hierarchy in the United States.

It’s regrettable that Obama has chosen to surround himself with peers in his own higher groups, for example, people who are currently wealthy and associated with elite private schools. Obama appears to have isolated himself from the wisdom, knowledge, and perspectives that only come from experiences and associations with lower groups.

We expected and were promised a fresh outlook from Obama which he can't produce as long as his line of sight is up toward the top..

We hope that Obama will soon begin to turn his head and look out, not up. Only then will Obama become the national and global leader that the world wants and needs.

"You have billions of us who are rooting for you."
–Paul McCartney to Obama, June, 2010

We Can't Wait

We can’t wait for people at the top to come around before we push for change.

When Senator Robert Byrd died recently at 92, he was remembered as a man who supported civil rights in his later years, but as a younger man made statements such as: “The Klan is needed today as never before, and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia,” and “Men are not created equal today, and they were not created equal in 1776.”

One of our most famous pro-segregation leaders, Alabama Governor George Wallace, made national headlines when he attempted to block African Americans from enrolling in the University of Alabama. Then decades later, in 1979, Wallace said of his stand in the schoolhouse door: "I was wrong. Those days are over and they ought to be over."

What if the leaders of the civil rights movement had waited until Robert Byrd or George Wallace embraced integration? They would have been wasting precious time, energy, and resources that they needed for making sweeping changes.

The lessons of Byrd and Wallace are applicable today as we work to weaken other hierarchies. The top may come around eventually, but we can’t wait for them or expect them to change now.