Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Work Hard Together

At Tuesday’s inauguration, President Barack Obama was measured, realistic, and definitive about the nature of the challenges ahead for all of us in a time of great economic challenge.

He invoked Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country…” by exhorting Americans to work. Obama understands that human energy and confidence shapes the mood of a country and its economy. Pull together, work hard (in our terminology, “win ugly”), but win – the hard message still had the optimism at its heart, and celebrates innovation, imagination, and the human spirit:

"...we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom."

It was a leadership speech – in a sense he was filling a power vacuum, since the election definitely, but also filling the moral leadership vacuum that had been left by the Bush/Cheney redefinition of US moral responsibility.

Responsibility played a key role in the speech, implicitly and explicitly:

"What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task."

An inclusive speech, both in the demographics it appealed to, the different nations of the world, this sums up his understanding that his Presidency is part of the American narrative:

"Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true."
– US President Barack Obama

Below is a word cloud of President Obama's inauguration speech. The most frequent words are everyday words that connect us with the challenge ahead.

Less. Today. New. Common. Must. People. Every. Generation. Work.

For the outsider, there is a lot of odd pageantry to the US presidential inauguration, but like JFK’s famous call to action it can have lasting and profound effect.


Piotr Jakubowski said...

That word cloud is a great tool to visualize the nature of his speeches. I wonder if they have one for Bush's speeches as well.

I also find it remarkable that Obama's speechwriter is just 27, and has been working for him for the last few years already. I will be watching closely to see what kind of "change" the new administration can truly bring.

psyche said...

Idealism and Hope(the challenge for the future-all of us as heroes in our own life stories)

Hello Kevin,

About five years ago if I'd read Mr Obama's speach I would have thought, "yes this is wonderful, it touches me"

and it does but,

for the first time in my life I'll allow myself to see beyond the speach to the message and the promises.

I know from my own experience that there's nothing worse than promising people something incredible and not being able to deliver on it. (I've done it-even if you have good intentions people don't like to be let down)

There is a lot of wisdom in the old mantra-underdeliver and over perform.

Mr Obama has come to symbolise something very powerful and it's shocked a lot of people, even the media...and that is -we all love a hero and we are all fantastically idealistic.

People are thinking, wow so the hatred between black and white people is not the way we thought it was-politicians and journalists seem shocked that the rest of the world (every man, woman and kid) has moved on.

And yet why are we surprised? Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Cesare Picton, Dido Elizabeth Bell, Kwame Nkrumah, the list could go on... from the huge structures in Aswan to the remains of ancient Zimbabwe, the history of the world and racial relationships has been re-taught and redefined by a new generation. People are no longer THAT shocked to see a dark skinned person in a position of influence.

Mr Obama represents the thing that we all secretly hold in our hearts,

it's that feeling you get when you see someone get gold at the olympics or as you (kevin) said it's that feeling you got when you found out the plane on the hudson wasn't a terrorist attack-in moments like that you realise that most men and women in this world are fantastic people and that we all want to live in harmony and that human beings are wonderfully idealistic and positive creatures.

The only thing that makes me feel a little bit sad is the emphasis and pressure that Mr Obama and many other politicians keep putting on their people to keep working hard, to do their duty.

Well that's great but I do also think it would be good to hear something along the lines of..."I am humbled and all of us in public service are humbled by the strength, courage and sense of duty and obligation that every man woman and child in this nation has already contributed as we face these difficult times.."

That's because sometimes what we (the regular people) need to hear is that we have already done our best and that we are magnificient,

telling us we still have to do more can be a little demoralising as it often feels as though the work is never done but if we talk as if we've already won the battle then straight away we feel victorious...and then we'll respond by giving our governments and banks our CONFIDENCE back-we may even start to spend..(with caution)

Last thing that's touched me Kevin, I've recently started working for a gov dep at moment my colleagues and I are working to support the growing numbers of people from all professions, from senior directors to construction workers and the homeless, most of these people are over the age of 35, lovely people who are all desperately looking for work, many of them have been made redundant and are shell shocked and suffering from low self esteem and feel insignificant.

Armed with my knowlege gained from books like "lovemarks" and "what your customers like about you",

I've seen how listening, encouragment, kindness and a genuine desire to provide your cutomers with great service can instill a sense of hope in people, in this case using the lovemark philosophy to show that the British Government supports and LOVES its workforce and its doing its utmost to support them back into work.


John Templeton once said that the key to success as a value investor

" is to shy away from what is popular and look for the areas of most pessimism,

in order to get the maximum investment value be that in a nation or a stock, invest at the point of greatest pessimism."

The same theory can be applied to people, as KR invested the gift of a book to me (when I was at my most pessimistic), he fulfilled my ideal that its possible to be successful and kind ( I desperately needed to believe in that)

So that karma gave me hope and that little seed has grown as I have recently chosen to go into job that would allow me to use my empathy for others and my love of customer service and face to face interaction.

I have chosen to INVEST my time working for a gov dept dealing with people AT THE POINT OF GREATEST PESSIMISM and I have received that good will back many times over and that has added MAXIMUM INVESTMENT VALUE TO MY LIFE.

If Mr Obama, Mr Brown and others can deliver the same sense of hope that thousands of ordinary men and women give to each other every day then we would have all done our best to make our world a much better place.

Thanks for letting me express and connect on your blog Kevin