I know. I wrote before that Obama reminds me of Mandela. But after listening to him yesterday I have serious second thoughts. But I decided not to write about it at first. First let me calm down (and that is difficult as you know) and take some time out to reflect. And last night I read his speech. Without his voice to influence me. Just words – black on white. And I am sorry to say. But Obama is no Mandela. Obama is not the American Mandela.
No. He is the first Obama. His own man in his own right. Making his own path. Building his own house. Leaving his own legacy. Obama is Obama. And one day we will write about another great leader being the next Obama. What we have in him is something special. We knew this before. But couldn’t put our finger on it completely. It got too muddled up in politics. Politics of speech writers. Politics of men and woman putting words in his mouth and reading things between the lines. Politics of the media either loving him or hating him. But always making him something they want him to be. Something they could love because he stands for what they stand for. Or something they could hate because he stood for everything they didn’t stand for. Someone they could put in a little box and point to and say, “That is who he is”. But last night he showed he is not someone to put in a little box. He is not an American Mandela. He is not a copy of what we want him to be. No. He is Obama. Warts and all – but the truth is what we see.
How often do we have the privileged to hear a man (or woman) speak about who they are? How often do we hear them talk about their personal ideals and not their political ideals? We hear them say what they stand for, but it is always in a political tone. Yesterday wasn’t about his political ideals. It was about him as a person. The good and the bad. But putting it out for us to all see and know the man behind the words.
It was him saying, “Here I am. Naked. Naked in front of you. You decide. Take me or leave me. But this is who I am”. It takes “balls” to say that. (My apologies, but can’t think of a better expression.) It takes courage to come clean and tell the people your real thoughts. Tell them about the real you. And not the you who they try to paint during elections. That “perfect” person doesn’t exist, but they try to paint that picture during elections – don’t they? Generally we don’t like what we hear. But we are human. And we know. Above all, we know. That truth and honesty is something you can’t buy. It is something that goes straight to who we are. We hate it when they lie to us. Most of the time we don’t know if they are lying or just spinning. But we know that we don’t know their heart and their secrets. We don’t know who they really are. Because they are so “experienced” in playing their games. And then we get a moment like yesterday when a politicians dares to tell the truth. The truth about himself and the truth about us.
Love him or hate him. But before you decide what to do when you go to the polls – just ask yourself one thing. Do you know who you are voting for? Do you know who they are? Have they really told you who they are or are they just telling you what you want to hear? Have they stood up – naked in front of you and say, “This is who I am. Warts and all.” I loved (love) Mandela because he came to us and told us who he is. Not perfect. Just him. And I am sorry to say. That Obama is the first person since Mandela who has opened up and told the people his real thoughts and exposed his real self. If I am in the trenches – I want to know the man next to me. I want to know if he will run or if he will fight. I don’t care what he thinks of me. I just want to be sure I know who I am stuck with – because my life depends on it. America. Your life depends on it. You decide. You vote for who you know because they came clean. Or you vote for someone who tells you anything to get your vote.
I am not going to do an analysis of his speech. It is there for you to read and make up your own mind. But I will quote him here. “Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well. For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can do that. But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change. That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, ‘Not this time.'”
Of course you will find pieces you don’t like. That’s why this is so important. He isn’t telling you everything you want to hear. He is telling you what he thinks in an open and honest way. You have to look at his speech in that context. The whole context. Don’t pick pieces you don’t like. Look at what he said as a whole and ask whether you can trust this man who tells you the truth the way he sees it. Not what you want to hear. But what he needed to say to you so you can know him and thereby trust him. You can only trust what you know. And you now know him.
Compare him with what you have at the moment. Not only the current President. But the political leaders all around. Do they inspire you? Or do they make you go and hate someone else? Obama has made the game so much more difficult for other politicians. They will hate him for this. Because people might just expect them to tell the truth in future. And not the spin. Ask yourself when last did you see or hear a politician talk so straight about themselves and this country he loves?
My biggest concern is that America might not be ready for someone like Obama. That will be a shame. But it might not be that easy to remind people that everyone (every legal citizen) is American in this country – not so easy after so many years of a divided America. It might be too early to ask Americans to believe in themselves again. It might be to early for Americans to be asked to believe in this country again. It might be to early for Americans to see the difference between the realities of today and yesterday and the potential of tomorrow.
For those who want him to be their leader – don’t forget to push him up this hill in the next few months. People will be scared of what he said yesterday. Scared because it challenges them to be Americans united and not the easy way out by staying divided. And they will attack him. Oh yes. They will and have already started. For those out there who supports Obama – go out and tell the world. Your world. break the fear and share the love and belief he has in this country called America.
Obama will not be an easy President to have. No. He won’t. He made it clear yesterday that Americans will need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and start working to unite this country again. Make America a place for all Americans to be proud of again. Make the “American Dream” real again. It won’t be easy. Because, like yesterday, he will challenge you to think and think again in what you believe. He will challenge you to become part of the love Americans share and not the hate that divides them. He will challenge you to be an American that the world can aspire to again. An America to inspire the world and not divide it. He will ask you to work your heart out to prove that you want to be an American. He will challenge you to be proud of everything America stands for – the good and the bad.
So no. Obama is not the American Mandela. He is the first Obama. He is his own man. He made his stand yesterday. Not following in the footsteps of others we admire. But making his own path. He has shown he is a leader of this great country in his own right. Not because of his name. Not because of his color. Not because of his experience. Not because of his gender. Not because of his politics. Not because we love him or hate him. No. He has shown he is a world leader through that one thing that makes him stand next to Kennedy, Gandhi, Churchill and Mandela. You just know it when you see it. And you know it when you hear it. Some might be scared of this and fight him – they did with all of these leaders I just mentioned. But others will see it and say, “Now is the time”.