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What Obama's speech say about his leadership.
Old 03-21-2008, 11:04 PM   #1
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What Obama's speech say about his leadership.

I am one of those nerdy kids who enjoyed debate club. In fact, it helped out in real life because I spent a large portion of my career giving speeches and presentation to a wide variety of groups, and I got pretty good at public speaking. People often would come up to me and tell me "that was a good talk" and more important’ often they'd even want to buy what I was selling!


So I am more than a little awed at Barack Obama's oratorical skills. I have long said that comparisons to Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan didn't to justice to the guy. I think he and Tony Blair are the best English-speaking orators today. In fact, part of me hopes Obama becomes president just because I'd enjoy hearing his speeches. (Of course I disagree with his policies pretty strongly)

The problem that I've had Barack's speeches is they all too often sound great when he delivers them, but when you actually read them, there is lovely rhetoric but little substance. Not so the Race speech, lots of thought provoking content, packaged beautifully, and delivered with great skill. So add me to the long list of conservatives who thought Barack delivered a great and important speech.

I'd even say it was an effective speech. I have a better understanding of why Rev. Wright might deliver these anti-American hateful sermons, I even understand why Senator Obama wouldn't abandon Rev. Wright and the Trinity church.

But what really concerns me is why Senator Obama couldn't transform Rev. Wright from an angry black minister who inflames the race problem in the US to a positive influence. If it was just the Reverend maybe I could understand, but his white grandmother was in his own words a bigot. Perhaps most importantly is wife has a strong anti American sentiment. I have never heard Michele Obama say anything along the lines of "I will never forget that in no other country on earth is my story possible", like Barack says, instead she sounds consistently angry at America.

Senator Obama is on a quest to lead this nation, and by extension much of the world. The essence of leadership is to convince other people to stop thinking and acting one way and instead to do what you think is right.
Senator Obama clearly knows that Reverend Wright, his grandmother, and his wife are wrong. So why hasn’t he been able change the actions of those people closest to him? Twenty to 25 years ago I’d have described my parents as being mildly bigoted, pretty typical for their generation of white Americans. Now my dad gradually transformed himself, but my mom need a bit of prodding from my sister and myself to first stop making racially insensitive comments and then to stop thinking them. I didn’t like cringing when my mom made offensive comments so I gently chided her, eventually it worked. If I can help make this change with a fraction of Obama’s rhetorical skills and charisma, why couldn’t Senator Obama?

Hillary Clinton has said that she is a fighter, and Barack described her as tenacious. I doubt there is a Republican who’d disagree. The only disagreement between Hillary supporters and Hillary basher; is she a fighter for a particular cause or group, or solely for herself? Likewise Senator McCain is a tenacious fighter, by his own admission he relishes a good argument. I can understand why this desire for confrontation scares some people, (I was recently asked will President McCain go to war with Iran?). On the other hand you want to see the leadership results of a scrappy fighter, campaign finance reform went from a half dozen votes out of 100 to the law of the land. Type A personalities can be pain in the butt to be around, but I wonder if they aren’t a requirement to be President. Barack is clearly a man of blessed with a first class mind, loads of charisma, a good temperament, and extraordinary oratorical skills.

The question I pose for his supporters is if can’t change the actions and opinions of those closest to him, how could he be effective with congress and other countries leaders?
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Old 03-21-2008, 11:19 PM   #2
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The question I pose for his supporters is if can’t change the actions and opinions of those closest to him, how could he be effective with congress and other countries leaders?
He might draw from what appears to be an inexhaustable pool of white guilt.

And he had better get his chance soon, because as America fills up with people from other nations it dilutes the number of people who are ready and eager to feel guilty.

Many of these recent immigrants are not white, so they want to be on the guilt selling rather than guilt buying side of the transaction.

Or if they are white (or counted as white when guilt transactions take place) -- like South Asians and North East Asians -- they tend to reason that whatever happened to blacks in America could not possibly have anything to do with them in Kazhakstan or Siberia or Bangalore or China.

So they aren't buying any guilt either.

Ha
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Old 03-22-2008, 12:10 AM   #3
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I know lots of very effective leaders who are smart, persuasive, and tenacious. They accomplish many wonderful things in their organizations, and people want to work for them. Sometimes these people's kids are a mess and their family lives are in shambles. So, while I do believe the way an individual behaves in private is very relevant in deciding whether they should be elected, I do not believe that their private, personal leadership ability and ability to persuade those close to them to behave in a particular way has much to do with their ability to lead an organization. The carrots and sticks, the emotional ties are just too different.

clifp--can I ask a personal question which I believe to be of some relevance? Do you now, or have you ever, had teenage children?
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Old 03-22-2008, 02:05 AM   #4
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No kids here.

But I have dealt with bigots before far worse than my parents ever were, and I don't think I tolerate them they same way Obama seems to have.
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Old 03-22-2008, 03:01 AM   #5
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I'm white, but will vote for Obama not out of (white) guilt, but because I believe he will make a far better president.

I don't believe that you need to be a battleaxe, like Hillary Clinton, in order to be effective. In fact, her in-your-face approach is exactly why she failed to reform healthcare in all of the years she had the opportunity to do so while tasked with that challenge when her husband was president.

McCain just plain scares me. He is such a warmonger that it is frightening to think he is even running for president.

I think Obama will do a great job with foreign policy and make the much needed changes domestically.

I disagree that's it's Obama's responsibility to change the minds and hearts of his minister and grandmother. First of all, bigoted views are rarely, if ever, changed. Not really. You may get a relative to change his/her behavior in your presence, so they don't have to hear "it" from you, but to change their true, deep down feelings and beliefs is another thing.

To liken this issue to how effective Obama will be in political circles is to attempt to draw a correlation where there is none.
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Old 03-22-2008, 06:46 AM   #6
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I disagree that's it's Obama's responsibility to change the minds and hearts of his minister and grandmother. First of all, bigoted views are rarely, if ever, changed. Not really. You may get a relative to change his/her behavior in your presence, so they don't have to hear "it" from you, but to change their true, deep down feelings and beliefs is another thing.

To liken this issue to how effective Obama will be in political circles is to attempt to draw a correlation where there is none.
Bigoted people don't change their mind, really Roll the clock back 40 years to 1968. We've been engaged in long war, which despite military progress the American public is sick off. Humbert Humphrey is the establishment candidate and he is up against Barak Obama for the Democratic nomination. How many white votes do you think he gets in 1968? I'll bet it is a lot less than he's gotten so far. I am sure that millions of "liberal" whites who wouldn't have dreamed of voting for a black man, in 1968 are happy to vote for Senator Obama 40 years latter. Some of it maybe white guilt, but I think a fair number of them have changed their minds about the African Americans. In short they use to be bigots and now they aren't. Pity this doesn't include Barack's Grandma or Reverend Wright.

You maybe right that the ability to presuade your friend family isn't correlated to your public leadership skills. Although, I can provide examples of dozens of great leaders who's force of personality was such that dominated the lives of family and friends.

Still the question of leadership is an important one. No one has been able to come up with any examples of the Senator leadership in public life. (Seriously if somebody can point to an example where Senator Obama got people to change their minds on a major issues I'd love to here it.) So I thought maybe in his private life he has show leadership skills, but I guess not.
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Old 03-22-2008, 07:11 AM   #7
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Old 03-22-2008, 07:31 AM   #8
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This dead horse is starting to stink.

Seems like everybody has kicked it at least once.

The uncertainty it has brought to the surface is: Will the change Obama actually delivers be the change middle-class America wants?

This is going to be vexing, if Obama is the candidate.

We have a choice between:
  • More of the same (McCain... certainly better than GWB).
  • Or change. Some of which we may want and some of which we may not want.
Does the fear of unwanted change override the dissatisfaction of status quo... or the other way around?
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Old 03-22-2008, 07:33 AM   #9
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I'm white, but will vote for Obama not out of (white) guilt, but because I believe he will make a far better president.

I don't believe that you need to be a battleaxe, like Hillary Clinton, in order to be effective. In fact, her in-your-face approach is exactly why she failed to reform healthcare in all of the years she had the opportunity to do so while tasked with that challenge when her husband was president.

McCain just plain scares me. He is such a warmonger that it is frightening to think he is even running for president.

I think Obama will do a great job with foreign policy and make the much needed changes domestically.

I disagree that's it's Obama's responsibility to change the minds and hearts of his minister and grandmother. First of all, bigoted views are rarely, if ever, changed. Not really. You may get a relative to change his/her behavior in your presence, so they don't have to hear "it" from you, but to change their true, deep down feelings and beliefs is another thing.

To liken this issue to how effective Obama will be in political circles is to attempt to draw a correlation where there is none.
McCain a Warmonger? Look people I am as Liberal as they come, do you guys remeber 9/11? Do you understand that bin laden is still free? Iraq is a place that if you want to continue the american dream of endless gasoline from the middle east well you will need an american police station in that part of the world. If you are ready to wean ourselves from their oil well then we can leave!
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Old 03-22-2008, 08:04 AM   #10
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I know lots of very effective leaders who are smart, persuasive, and tenacious. They accomplish many wonderful things in their organizations, and people want to work for them. Sometimes these people's kids are a mess and their family lives are in shambles. So, while I do believe the way an individual behaves in private is very relevant in deciding whether they should be elected, I do not believe that their private, personal leadership ability and ability to persuade those close to them to behave in a particular way has much to do with their ability to lead an organization. The carrots and sticks, the emotional ties are just too different.
While I do agree with your comments that changing the opinions of those closest to you is difficult at best, one doesn't have to consort with people who have vastly opposing outlooks on life. He is married to a very attractive woman. I am also married as are many people on this board. How many people are married to someone who have drastically different view of the world than themselves? If my wife came out and stated she thought all black people were criminals that would be a huge flaw I would not be able to overcome and would signal the time to get out of the marriage. The same with Obama, his wife comes out and says she is finally proud of America because they are voting for a black candidate, and she writes a very racist paper while attending college. These two items would leave me to believe she is very racist, to put it out in the public for people to view and comment about. If Obama were opposed to those beliefs he would not have found the common grounds to marry and stay married to Michelle.

Likewise, I find it very hard to believe that Obama's minister has not broached to topic in the 20 years Obama has been a member of his church. If Obama did not feel strongly that the minister's beliefs were not in line with his own why would he stay in the church? The simple answer is he wouldn't.
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Old 03-22-2008, 11:10 AM   #11
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I don't know what attitudes Obama may have picked up from his pastor and his congregation regarding white people. Even if he does believ in some type of grand plan by whitey to keep the black man down, he's surely smart enough never to say this.

I believe a different message that he has received from his pastor, his fellow congregants, and his other associates is far more damaging. He admits to believing it, and it comes through loud and clear in his policy proposals and speeches: an over-emphasis on collectivism and the government vs the individual. Listen to "Rev" Wright's speeches: Full of intonations against the wrongs of the government (AIDS deliberately cultivated and spread among blacks by the government? Illicit drugs deliberately distributed by government to the black community? Economic policies specifically designed to keep black Americans from being prosperous?). And the corrective actions proposed are also government-centric. I think there are strong indications Obama does believe the government should be "fixing" things (forcibly taking wealth from some people and giving it to others, etc). That is the most dangerous known thing about his policies and his world view, and it is clearly on display.
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Old 03-22-2008, 11:32 AM   #12
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clifp i think he said his granny said those things - at some point in time - nothing about how she feels now (probably terribly proud of him! - if she is in fact alive?)

I agree with you that people do change - i've seen it plenty of times - sometimes even if they don't want to! I also think that Michelle made a statement that she probably regrets as has anyone who is under constant public scrutiny.

Also, many people who went/go to the Trinity church agree with Obama that the clips on youtube do not reflect the overwhelming majority of what was preached by Wright there - that the message was uplifting and "get yourself together" by God - not by government - which i'd imagine lots of conservatives would laud.

And hey, Oprah went to church there - does everyone want to launch into attacking Oprah and all the great things she has done for the country? And you wouldn't accuse her of hating the country either would you?
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Old 03-22-2008, 11:53 AM   #13
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So I am more than a little awed at Barack Obama's oratorical skills. I have long said that comparisons to Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan didn't to justice to the guy.
Steve Jobs. Just kidding. I think.

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The question I pose for his supporters is if can’t change the actions and opinions of those closest to him, how could he be effective with congress and other countries leaders?
Hey, Obama's been a lot more effective at changing his family members' racist attitudes than I've been with several of my relatives. I guess it's a good thing that I'm not running for political office.

I think Obama's tactic was brilliant. He could've done the traditional "Shocked, I say shocked, by my former mentor" distancing or "Reverend who?!?" denials and it'd be old news by next week. Instead he's managed to (1) shine a spotlight on a nasty issue, (2) issue a call for change, and (3) get a bunch of people working on it. Sounds like he's even using his potential vulnerabilities to stay on message.

I think that bigots feel comfortable in an environment that tolerates or even supports their attitudes. Now Obama's subjects are thrust into an uncomfortable glare of publicity that will either force their change, marginalize them, or turn them into Leno fodder. The choice is theirs, and all Obama did was call attention to the issue.

He seems to be facilitating discussion, forming teams, and encouraging action. I like that approach better than being told what I think by someone who's clearly smarter than me. I also prefer Obama's approach to someone who's possibly a little too quick to fight for their beliefs. I'm not sure which one I'll vote for, but I think Obama's wasted on the Supreme Court.

Compared to the Presidential elections in 1976, 2000, and 2004, there's no losers in this race...
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Old 03-22-2008, 12:13 PM   #14
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Also, many people who went/go to the Trinity church agree with Obama that the clips on youtube do not reflect the overwhelming majority of what was preached by Wright there - that the message was uplifting and "get yourself together" by God - not by government - which i'd imagine lots of conservatives would laud.
Did you think they would? If it was difficult for the senator to denounce the pastor's statements don't you think it would be just as difficult for the average member who knows the pastor is the center of attention.


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And hey, Oprah went to church there - does everyone want to launch into attacking Oprah and all the great things she has done for the country? And you wouldn't accuse her of hating the country either would you?


Libertarian Republican: Bombshell: Obama was in Jeremiah's church during controversial sermon: Oprah left over offensive statements

Obama’s most famous celebrity backer, Oprah Winfrey began attending Wright’s church in 1984. Last year, Newsmax magazine reported that Winfrey abruptly stopped attending years ago, and suggested that she did so to distance herself from Wright’s inflammatory rhetoric. She soon found herself a target of Wright, who excoriated her for having broken with “traditional faith.”
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Old 03-22-2008, 03:55 PM   #15
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Thanks for the thoughtful comments Clifp. I support Obama's candidacy and am happy to share my view on your questions.

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The question I pose for his supporters is if can’t change the actions and opinions of those closest to him, how could he be effective with congress and other countries leaders?
It's very difficult to know for sure, by my guess is that he did have an affect on his grandmother and pastor. I have a 93 year old aunt who sometimes says some things that are bigoted. I expect that her views have been tempered my family, but it's impossible to measure.

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Still the question of leadership is an important one. No one has been able to come up with any examples of the Senator leadership in public life. (Seriously if somebody can point to an example where Senator Obama got people to change their minds on a major issues I'd love to here it.) So I thought maybe in his private life he has show leadership skills, but I guess not.
Obama has run an exceptional campaign and raised more money than anyone else. This clearly takes leadership. He has convinced his supporters that a new direction is needed in leadership and politics. He's reaching out to all Americans, not just the 51% that his campaign has determined he needs to win. His response to the Reverend Wright scandal is another excellent example. Compare his remarks to those of Romney on religion.

My fear is that his political rivals will use Obama's race to scare white voters from supporting him. We can see this happening already. Rivals claim to be appalled by the comments that his pastor made, yet say nothing about McCain pandering to what he himself called 'agents of intolerance.' They take his 'typical white grandmother' comment out of context, and ignore it when McCain says 'I hate the Gooks. I will hate the Gooks as long as I live.' This McCain quote is taken out of context. He was talking about his captors, not all Asians. What's strange is that after criticism he refused to stop using the term. For me this isn't an issue, but it does indicate that he's very stubborn.
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Old 03-22-2008, 08:37 PM   #16
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A few more comments.

Gumby: good link; death penalty is a contentious issue and sounds like Obama was able to make a positive change. I am sure Hillary will continue pounding on the issue I wonder if the Obama campaign can provide more examples of leadership.

Dex: Newsmax charge is a pretty serious one, but Newsmax is as partisan as the NY Times.

Nord:. I laughed at the Steve Jobs comparison, because I've been comparing Obama to Jobs for months now. In Silicon Valley, Steve Job was infamous for having what was called a reality distortation field around him. Basically, Steve could make outrageous claims "like you don't real need a computer with a floppy disk (Lisa)", or "$500 is bargain for an iPHONE" and as long as you were within the sound his voice you'd nod you head and say sheep-like "yes Steve I belief."

Actually, if it does turn out to be Obama vs McCain, this will be the best choice I've had for President since I've started voting in 1980.


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Obama has run an exceptional campaign and raised more money than anyone else. This clearly takes leadership. He has convinced his supporters that a new direction is needed in leadership and politics. He's reaching out to all Americans, not just the 51% that his campaign has determined he needs to win. His response to the Reverend Wright scandal is another excellent example. Compare his remarks to those of Romney on religion.
I agree, except for I don't really see example of him reaching out to all Americans. His policy proposal are still those of a liberal. Now to his credit, he is the least scary liberal I've heard, but that is because I'm vunerable to reality distoration fields
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Old 03-23-2008, 08:28 AM   #17
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A few more comments.

Gumby: good link; death penalty is a contentious issue and sounds like Obama was able to make a positive change. I am sure Hillary will continue pounding on the issue I wonder if the Obama campaign can provide more examples of leadership.

Dex: Newsmax charge is a pretty serious one, but Newsmax is as partisan as the NY Times.

Nord:. I laughed at the Steve Jobs comparison, because I've been comparing Obama to Jobs for months now. In Silicon Valley, Steve Job was infamous for having what was called a reality distortation field around him. Basically, Steve could make outrageous claims "like you don't real need a computer with a floppy disk (Lisa)", or "$500 is bargain for an iPHONE" and as long as you were within the sound his voice you'd nod you head and say sheep-like "yes Steve I belief."

Actually, if it does turn out to be Obama vs McCain, this will be the best choice I've had for President since I've started voting in 1980.


JB


I agree, except for I don't really see example of him reaching out to all Americans. His policy proposal are still those of a liberal. Now to his credit, he is the least scary liberal I've heard, but that is because I'm vunerable to reality distoration fields
Wasn't he voted MOST LIBERAL Senator in the US Senate? That's scary to me........... Are there NO moderates on the right or left anywhere??
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Old 03-23-2008, 12:04 PM   #18
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Well, I finally listened to the entire un-edited speech.

I think what impresses me most, is that Obama seems to take a different path from most politicians. Rather than simply denounce the pastor, and try to sweep it all under the rug, or 'blame' the other side for dragging 'race' into the campaign, he uses this as an opportunity to openly and honestly address the issues of race and equality and opportunity in America today. I found that very refreshing. Has any other candidate spoken so openly about these issues?

I'm not too concerned about Obama's liberal record - the Dems just don't have enough power in Congress to pass excessively liberal legislation.


Also, to clifp's original point as to the style of the speech, I've heard some comments that it was 'good, but no 'I have a Dream' speech'. I think that may have been intentional. I don't think Obama wanted to come across sounding like a black minister - so not so much drama, or flowery speech, or poetic style to it. Simple, straightforward content. JMO.

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Old 03-23-2008, 12:43 PM   #19
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I do not think the senator speech was great and I don't want to hijack this thread - maybe I'll start another one.
The greatest difference is between MLK's speech and the senators is vision and leadership.
The senator does a good job discussing history. He does not present a vision of the future as does MLK. Nor does the senator present a plan to get there as does MLK.
American Rhetoric: Martin Luther King, Jr. - I Have a Dream

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Old 03-23-2008, 01:03 PM   #20
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Personally, I count as a positive that he was willing to address race and open dialog. It is a complex problem and he did a great job of encompassing much of that complexity. That being said he didn't project a vision for the future nor any concrete plans to make improvements. But seeing as he's a candidate and mostly trying to defuse a divisive issue rather than solve it, that seems okay for now.

I also suggest that if the new standard is going to be "that speech was good but not as good as MLK's I have a Dream" then we are NEVER going to judge any speech as good. The Dream speech was a great speech, but it has also assumed larger than life character in historic context and a reverent patina that makes it an impossible (and unrealistic) standard against which to judge others efforts.
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