Post by Tanya Maslach, contributing Women On Business writer
At 7:00 am on Tuesday morning the first phone call started what was going to be a very busy day. Another call at 7:30 from the U.K. almost ran through the momentous events of the Inauguration. And a short time later, I was watching 1.9 million people chant “O-ba-ma!”, “O-ba-ma!, O-ba-ma!” As pumped up as I was from my last call, I don’t think I was fully prepared for how much more excited I would be as the events of the day unfolded.
Have you ever been to a rock concert? U2, Dire Straights, Dave Matthews Band, LIVE, Bruce Springsteen? You may not share my taste in music, but you can remember the feeling of the crowd before the band came out to play right? That sense of community, unity of purpose – it was multiplied a thousand fold on January 20, 2009. People were happily sharing taxis with strangers, becoming fast friends by the time they arrived to view the Inauguration; they stood for six hours in freezing conditions with smiles permanently glued to their faces, dancing and singing together to stay warm; and what may be the most amazing of all, not ONE arrest or incident occurred related to the event during the Inauguration. Did I already mention there were 1.9 million people present?
How is this possible? Well, don’t ask CBS. A prominent reporter tried to explain it by starting out her story with, “It may be kind of korny, but…” Korny? I love it. Have we become so out of touch with the power of positive, authentic, spirited relationships that we don’t even know them when we see them? Guess so. Even a conservative and straight-laced reporter was befuddled enough by the palpable sense of community and connectedness in Washington, D.C. that finding a word to explain the phenomenon completely eluded her.
So what does all of this have to do with business?
But let’s have fun with this for a second. Let’s take a quick look at our situation. (Rated “R” warning: For eternal optimists out there, skip ahead past this paragraph) The economy is in the toilet. People are depressed because of unemployment, threatening their basic survival needs; businesses are closing down all around us; a doctor’s treatment is too costly; and we’ve been wondering why our country’s military men and women still spend close to a year away from their families. In the words of President Obama, “these are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable, but no less profound, is a sapping of confidence across our land.” So, what’s a rock star leader to do in times like these?
Well, if you were President Obama, you’d practice something you learned from your mother, of course. President Obama said once that his mother taught him the capacity to see the world through other people’s eyes. And what does he see now?
The loss of collective confidence, belief, and hope that pose real threats to our ability to create positive change. What does he propose we do about it? As the President said, “those values upon which our success depends; honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism…these things are old, these things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.” With these words he speaks to our weakened beliefs, sagging confidence, and softened hopes and powers them up again. Essentially, speaking to our strongest emotions, our driving force for action, and challenging us to step up – together. No stats, no data. Just real sugar – words of love, partnership, and shared unity and responsibility. Kinda korny? I – don’t – think – so.
President Obama has already demonstrated that to move a nation to action you must reach inside to the individual and connect there first. His candidacy and campaign was built on it. The result? It’s captured in this statement by one exuberant participant of the Inauguration festivities: “I’m feeling very hopeful and inspired”- Words whose meanings come from deep inside the soul of a person who has been asked, and is required, to play a role in the massive change effort of one of the largest businesses on earth – the United States of America.