Barack Obama at Verizon Wireless Arena

by Krishna on May 19, 2007

Today was the Southern New Hampshire University Commencement ceremony at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, NH (New Hampshire). I was there as an M.S. (Organizational Leadership) graduate of the Class of 2007. I had the good fortune of seeing Senator Barack Obama (D‑Illinois) give the commencement address.

Sen. Obama did not disappoint and gave a superb speech. He started with a bit of humor suggesting that he was lucky he did not have to run against Okendo Lewis-Gayle (the President of the Student Government Association) who had earlier given a rousing address. He then went on to talk about the responsibilities that fresh graduates have towards others in society.

Drawing from his experiences as a youth and as a community organizer, he said that becoming a mature adult is not an automatic thing in life. Although there are various milestones like passing a certain age or graduating from college, that does not mean one automatically stops being childish. Becoming an adult involves changing one’s attitudes and mindset.

Obama talked about an episode in his younger days where he and his friends had created a mess while enjoying themselves. When the cleaning lady burst into tears, a friend said that the cleaning lady could have been her grandmother. This brought the consequences of his actions to Barack. He said that, contrary to what we think, the world does not revolve around us. We need to develop empathy for others and think about how they feel, instead of sticking to what we imagine about them.

The Senator also talked about the advice against his becoming a community organizer and how he still went forward. He said that one must challenge oneself in life. We should take risks and push ourselves. The general ambitions for people are earning money, buying a house, etc. But just living for money’s sakes will leave us unfulfilled in life. (Aside: The commencement book had a popular quote from Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do.”)

The senator urged the audience to think about the wider problems in society and try to make a difference. He said that in the general flow of events, we tend to become more narrow in our thoughts as we start moving with and living near people of similar characteristics and thinking. So we have to make a conscious effort to broaden our thinking and understand the thinking of other people.

The audience gave a standing ovation to the Senator. Having read his two books (“Dreams From My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope”) and now hearing his speech, I believe he is a great candidate (on the Democratic side) to become President of the United States. He comes across as much more refreshing than the rest of the pack. It doesn’t sound like a politician. When you look at the previous Democratic presidential candidate (John Kerry), Obama seems more genuine and less forced.

Why do I write about a political candidate in an IT business blog? The reason is that Obama has the same outlook towards handling problems that we want in business owners and leaders. Before you even forming your opinions about him, my advice is: read his books (my one-minute reviews here). Although Obama is liberal, his positions seem less wrapped in ideology and more in pragmatism. His speech today was similar — it was marked by common sense advice, which unfortunately, is not commonly followed.

It is early days for the Presidential race yet. I hope that the Republican side can now produce a candidate who can bring a similar leadership style to the table. In these times of rapid change, America (and every other country) needs realists and problem solvers who know how to prioritize the challenges out there.

{ 1 comment }

marie December 13, 2007 at 11:49 pm

i want to know why their r no campaines in louisiana don't we matter at all anymore!!!

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