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Juana Bordas
Diversity leader

Juana Bordas

Juana Bordas is president of Mestiza Leadership International, a company focusing on leadership, diversity, and organizational change. Author of the 2007 book Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age, she is a board member of the International Leadership Association.


Question: From a leadership perspective--moving the country and the political process away from division and gridlock and toward consensus, confidence and action--how would you grade President Obama's State of the Union speech?

Gazing behind to his right, President Obama cited the promise of America with Vice President Joe Biden's humble beginnings in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Then flashing that incomparable smile, he turned to his left and noted that Speaker of the House John Boehner swept floors as a young boy. He too fulfilled the promise of America.

This inclusive and conciliatory tone was evident from the beginning of his State of the Union speech: "We are all part of the American family and must work together to win the future."

Alluding to the lesson the nation must learn from Tucson, he cautioned, "No matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater--something more consequential than party or political preference." And then he challenged both Democrats and Republicans, stating that new laws will only pass by governing through shared responsibility. "We will move forward together, or not at all--for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics."

Obama was able to reframe the past noise and rancor of the public debate into one that reflected the very process of democracy and the rights enshrined in our Constitution. Legislators might "argue about everything," but not one person in the room would choose a centralized, non-democratic government where decisions were made without discourse and debate.

If our elected officials were listening, they would have heard the president entreating them to sustain the American dream, renew and restore American leadership, and rebuild people's faith in government.

In the days ahead, the nation will discern whether they were listening. Will Congress end the divisive battles of the past and move forward to govern for the good of the nation?

One of the hallmarks of great leadership is bringing people together in times of crisis, healing divisions and inspiring people to believe that through their collective efforts they can and will overcome. The president's speech had many of these tenets. Obama has finally grown into his presidential shoes.

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By Juana Bordas

 |  January 26, 2011; 9:00 AM ET
Category:  Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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A great leader also needs to be able to be honest about the difficulties a country faces. While President Obama was conciliatory and healing of divisions, inspiring people to believe and act, he shied from the difficult crisis's we face as a people - the deficit and unsustainable entitlements and defense spending - to instead ask for our collective effort to build high speed rail.

A leader needs to lead, not position for the next election. If he has indeed grown into his presidential shoes, I'm so sorry for how very they small they now appear. An "incomparable smile" and dream to "win the future", yet alas for the ability to discern the present and call for duty or sacrifice to fix it.

Posted by: cooperburchenal | January 27, 2011 5:39 PM
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