Obama and the Need for Change

While recently contemplating all the disappointment surrounding President Obama’s performance during his first year in office, I thought about the national need for change and how the promise of it resonated so strongly that it propelled him into office.  Then I thought about where we are at the moment and how we haven’t quite gotten what was promised… or what was expected.

So what went wrong?

I think the key word is “need.”  We needed change so badly we grabbed onto the first person who looked and sounded as if he understood our need.  But neediness is tricky business. When you act out of need, and strike a deal based upon it, there is always a back-end price that turns out to be more than you were willing to pay.  And like it or not… pay it you will.

Change has several characteristics.   Its natural, necessary, takes time, and requires sacrifice.  It can’t be gifted, bought, or bargained for. Its the stuff of Life.  In fact, its the paradox of Life because the only thing you can count on for sure in Life is change.

But as with anything else, when you need it too badly, you tend to overlook a lot to fill the need.  We do it all the time in personal relationships.  We overlook qualities in another that would otherwise be deal-breakers simply because they have something we need.  Thinking their presence in our life will somehow change it for the better, we proceed throwing caution to the wind. 

We do it with acquisition.  We buy things we can’t afford because we need whatever it is that thing represents to make us feel or look better… or to fill a void we’d otherwise rather not explore.

So, when in 2008, we all innately knew we were living on the edge in too many ways, we also knew it was  time to change that fact.  We were right to think it.  We were foolish to think that the necessary change would come so easily by way of bumper sticker and a charismatic speaker.  Anyone who has ever watched or studied how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly knows better.  It’s a slow, and at times, painful process.  It requires loss and letting go.  It also requires endurance and the ability to survive adversity. 

It happens one caterpillar at a time. 

There is no top down solution to what ails us.  No one is going to legislate, adjudicate or mandate us out of this one.  As Barry Manilow once wrote, “This One’s For You.”   This one is for each of us to go within, find our values, our determination and the strength to endure change…and then to live it all in every facet of our lives…each and every day.

Knowing your core values, having unwavering determination and garnering inner strength you become exempt from need.   Exempt from need you need not cut any deals for which you will later find yourself unable to pay that back-end fee.

If the man we elected President in 2008 now seems to have disappointed us, and our plight no better and perhaps worse than he took office, remember that we cut a deal.  We needed change and he promised to bring it. 

I think the lesson is to be the change you want to see in the world.  I didn’t originate that realization, it was Gandhi’s mission statement.  He lived it and so changed the future of India.  Not by promising to give change to his countrymen but by showing them, by example, how to do it themselves… one person at a time.

Mr. President, I’m still waiting.

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