Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ten Principles Paralleled

Being a daughter, Obama’s letter to his daughters Sasha and Malia struck a chord with me. In 'What I Want for You — and Every Child in America, ' Obama draws upon a variety of guiding principles of effective leadership to express his vision in the cause for “Change.” It might surprise some that the same ten principles used to build leaders in the West Point military academy are being used by Obama to communicate with his daughters and the public: duty, honor, faith, courage, perseverance, confidence, approachability, adaptability, compassion and vision. The letter as touching and genuine as it may be obviously has a deeper political purpose. I see an interesting parallel between military leadership techniques and Obama’s persuasive strategy.

One aspect of effective leadership is to have vision. Obama’s letter to his daughter represents dual purposes. It is in part an expression his appreciation and vision for the future for his daughters as well as a vision and goals for the children of all people. It serves as a road map and call for action and change. He highlights his vision for education, and touches on health care, and jobs, then moves to the environment and wars as factors that affect families.

He opens with a humorous reference to eating junk food, which reminds us of our duty to ourselves to eat right. It connects on an emotional and rational level. He creates a sense of community and sort of social moral contract. Duty is another key guiding principle for effective leadership. He tells both his daughters and the public of a duty to hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself and make this imperfect nation more perfect. He eloquently weaves a connection to faith, honor and duty saying, “The blessings these men and women fight for are not free.” He also refers to religion and the need for broader perspectives later mentioning the connection between religious differences and division in community which sometimes keeps us from seeing the best in each other. We are left with the tone of contrasting seriousness in connection to everyone’s duty on the national level.

His message applies principle of honor too. Honor involves creating a sense of community. He gives recognition and approval, especially in the closing, saying he is proud and grateful for his daughters “patience, poise, grace and humor.”

He further creates an intense sense of awareness of the importance of community, and particularly families, when he mentions that all his big plans for himself didn’t seem so important after his children were born. He wanted both his daughters and every child in the nation to have opportunities for happiness and fulfillment. He conveys a sense of the importance of the principle of perseverance by referring to his personal life quest which began as a young man, thinking “it’s all about me” and then referring to the larger lesson learned from his grandmother involving the need to persevere to attain the principle of equality for all men.

In many ways he includes the principle of compassion. He expresses empathy on a personal level recognizing how the campaign was not easy for his daughter’s Malia and Sasha and their mother and his compassion on a political level, for those who have not been granted the full rights of equality as spelled out in the declaration of independence.

The way he leverages important social issues from the campaign: education, the environment and war, saying he wants his daughters and other children to see the discovery of new technology and inventions that make the world cleaner and safer, was effective selling of his ideas. In doing so, it becomes a call for action from educators, scientists, environmentalists and the military to join in his vision. He even alludes to collegiality among women using terms like “committed women” near the end of his letter.


Ali Wunderman said...

One of the big differences between Sarah Palin's and Barack Obama's respective campaign styles was who they attracted as their audience. Palin went for the hockey moms and called small towns "real America," whereas Obama has made the sorts of comments that include everyone in the country and leave no one out. I think this blog entry really highlights the fact that he has been able to reference the country as a whole, getting rid of party lines, as one big family, something to which almost everyone can relate.

Lisa R. Pruitt said...

On the other hand, Obama arguably leaves out those who live in small towns and rural America. Much has been made about him being our first urban President -- or at least the first in some time. I've written about this some over at Of course, if Obama is excluding people, he is not doing so as explicitly as Sarah Palin seemed to do, but . . . is everyone truly included in Obama's plan and priorities?

akclark said...

It's premature to frame Obama as one sided. He has only been on the job for merely a week. He has been keeping campaign promises. On his website he promised rural America:
"ensure economic opportunity for family farmers:

Obama and Biden will fight for farm programs that provide family farmers with stability and predictability. They will implement a $250,000 payment limitation so that we help family farmers - not large corporate agribusiness.

Support small business development:

Obama and Biden will provide capital for farmers to create value-added enterprises, like cooperative marketing initiatives and farmer-owned processing plants.

Improve rural quality of life:

Obama and Biden will combat methamphetamine use, improve health care, improve education, and upgrade infrastructure in rural areas."

swatsonucd said...

Perhaps it's a bit nieve of me, but when the news about this letter broke, I was really upset. Before I read the letter, I thought that someone had simply leaked the letter, which appalled me. Why would someone invade their families privacy in such a manner? But then I read the letter, and I was instead disappointed in Obama. I understand that this was a great political opportunity, but it violates some of my morals. Perhaps it is because Malia and Sasha are so young, but I don't believe that they should be used to help the countries morales. Their formative years have already be drastically changed due to their father being the more powerful man in the world. They do not need the added pressure of media attention and scrutiny when they should be allowed to study and play as kids their age want to do.
While the letter was a great morale booster for the country, especially Obama's supporters, I think Barack and Michelle Obama made a bad decision by exploiting their daughters in such a manner.