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Kathy Kretman

Kathy Kretman

Kathy Postel Kretman is the Director of Georgetown University’s Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership, where she leads the University’s nationally-recognized Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate Program.

A Slip of the Tongue

It was a night of endless questioning of the president about health care reform, but as the news conference droned on for nearly an hour, the press was looking for a lead. And then, voila, a question from a Chicago Sun-Times reporter about the Professor Gates/Sergeant Crowley incident. Ears perked up. President Obama responded quickly, too quickly, as it happens, commenting on what he perceived as the "stupidity" of the Cambridge Police Department in handling the situation.

A slip of the tongue mushroomed into a national story, eclipsing all others. How could the president rectify this and turn a careless comment into a teachable moment on the power of words--his and those directly involved; the underlying and ever-present issue of race in America, and, finally, the use of reconciliation to resolve conflict?

The South Lawn summit produced more than media commentary on choice of beer. It brought together two people whose views on race relations mirror what many Americans think. President Obama became the choreographer-in-chief and through this meeting he helped diffuse a potentially volatile situation, at least for the short term.

Whether Obama, the First Lady, or his advisers were the first to understand the consequences of his words is not the issue. The fact that the president listened, heard, and acted to mitigate the damage is a test of good leadership.

By Kathy Kretman

 |  August 6, 2009; 11:41 AM ET
Category:  Making mistakes Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Well Mr. Obama is definitely an understudy of the Biden school of communicative arts. When the most intelligent thing a Ph'd from Harvard can come up with is "I'll talk to your Momma..." At the moment you want to involve my mother in the conversation, you better call a geological mining rescue team? Because that's what it will take to remove my "Shoe leather suppository" from your arse.

Posted by: dsmittyticked | August 6, 2009 8:41 PM
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