martin-luther-king2Barack Obama Takes Campaign Bus Tour Through Pennsylvaniajfksppech 

Since the time of Martin Luther King, our country has been in a serious leadership drought.  In fact, in my lifetime, I can not think of one great American leader.  Can you?   I am not speaking about someone who got the job done well.  I’m talking about someone who inspires us to be better Americans. 

Forty freaking years with no real American leaders!

I don’t think my generation realized how thirsty we were for inspirational leadership until the possibility was put before us.  Sure, many of us longed for a President who could string meaningful words together but the bar was so low, anyone would have been better.  And while there were many men and women who ran for President that would have done an admirable job,  I don’t think any other candidate would have energized our country the way Obama has done in the last thirty days leading up to his oath of office.   I, for one, have a huge political crush on our next President.  And I know I am joined by millions of others.

Obama knows how to speak to our sensibilities.  He has mastered one of the first rules of communications:  When addressing an audience, do not base your comments on what you want to say, base it on what the people need to hear.  We want straight talk but we also want hope.  We want action and accountability.  We want confidence.  There is no doubt that his inaugural speech tomorrow will be chock full of those messages – and will rival “I Have a Dream” for its place in history.   (It will be fun to guess which sound byte will go down in history.)

But I think what endears Obama as a leader to so many Americans is his role as a father. 


I’m not sure he would have entered my heart so easily if it weren’t for his relationship with Michelle, Sasha and Malia.  It just seems so real.  In his open letter to his daughters this past weekend, he writes about his transition into parenthood, from thinking only about himself to thinking first about his children.  He says, “I soon found that the greatest joy in my life was the joy I saw in yours.”  I, too, remember that transition when my stuff suddenly didn’t feel nearly as important as theirs.  With that statement, he cemented his position of one of us and conveyed to parents everywhere that he gets it, because he is living it.  Any decision he makes for the country will have the best interest of his children in mind – and therefore the best interest of ours.  Somehow, former Presidents Bush, Clinton, and Carter didn’t give me the same feeling perhaps because their children were slightly older and less vulnerable, but perhaps because they never publicly shared that warmth in such a direct manner.

The comparison of Obama to MLK and JFK is appropriate and precarious for obvious reasons.  It is not something many will say out loud, but we are all praying for the safety of our new President, more so than any leader before him. 

I asked my Mom and in-laws yesterday if they “knew” the greatness of King and Kennedy when they were alive.  The consensus, I believe, was “no”.  MLK and JFK were great speakers and extremely engaging, but it wasn’t until years later, after their assassinations, that America truly embraced what their leadership meant to our country. 

In this regard, Obama has a tremendous head start.  America will receive him with open arms tomorrow. Deservedly yet or not, he is already viewed as a great leader.  America thinks he is up to the task of taking us where we desperately need to go.  We are rooting for him and his success. And our expectations are high.  For a change.

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