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?
Leaders are those who are able to face reality but also see what is possible, even in adversity. They can see across the chasm between what exists in the present and what can be created in the future. They are able to help followers remember the past without being imprisoned by it; they acknowledge despair while still giving hope ; they call others to do more than they thought they could do and to be more than they think they are.
The speech recalled a time when some Americans felt we had lost our competitive edge; but when we have fallen behind, we reinvent ourselves and become even better. It was a message that inspires us to recall and embrace the true American character: a nation of people who believe in themselves, who value freedom and democracy; a people with determination, resilience, dedication, tenacity, creativity, innovation, risk and courage. I think the president repeatedly used a language of unity and collaboration, yet framed this desire with the truth of the context of creating legislation.
He framed the disagreements as indicative of the health of a democracy and reminded us that debate over differences need not be vitriolic in order to get things done. We were reminded that remembering the past can help us move into the vision that founded this country, and that can once again propel us into a new reality.