The election of Barack Obama is a transformational event. Many in the African-American community, and the larger world, believed they would never see this day come in their lifetime. But come it did, a victory of such decisiveness that there can be no question that a new era has arrived.
Barack Obama may have single-handedly reestablished the belief that possibilities are potent and dreams can be manifest, even in the face of dark times. After eight tragic years of war, economic devastation, a trillion dollar deficit, human rights abuses, and other scandals, the American public hungered for a message of hope and a plan to recover the integrity and dignity of the American dream. Obama recognized those aspirations and with great eloquence, spoke to them directly and repeatedly. The result? A landslide victory.
Barack Obama is a Visionmaker. A Visionmaker is anyone who takes the purposeful action required to manifest a heart-felt vision in the world. Obama's pursuit of a meaningful alternative to the status quo and his ability to engage a wide cross-section of the American public in a new dream for their country contributed to massive engagement in the election. 135 million people waited patiently for the opportunity to vote. That's four times the population of Canada –voting! And, millions of people around the world followed the U.S. election as though it were happening in their own country.
By contrast, Canadians avoided the polling stations in droves this past October, with just 59% of eligible voters casting a ballot. It was the lowest turnout in our nation's history. Why? An uninspiring appeal to maintain the status quo trumped a poorly articulated green plan that carried economic consequences that no one could explain and few understood. In the middle of economic calamity no party seemed to grasp the severity of the threat to the livelihood of ordinary people. Nor was there a compelling vision presented that inspired Canadians to be Canadians. As a result, we defaulted to regionalism and provincialism, primary allegiances that continue to fragment national unity. Or we fell to apathy.
Obviously, fewer of us cared about a "no stakes election". It cost the Canadian taxpayer $300 million dollars to uphold the status quo and elect a minority government. Two years ago, 64% of eligible voters cast ballots, and the election came in at $277 million. That's almost $600 million dollars spent on the status quo.
What Obama gets that most leaders fail to understand is the power of possibility. "Yes we can" is a bold acknowlegement that the tyranny of the status quo can and must be overturned, which is the work of every Visionmaker. It is also a call to action that reaches beyond societies' dividing lines; barriers that previously appeared unassailable and prevented progress from occurring.
In the discipline of Visionmaking– which is the ongoing mission of this website to explore– the status quo is defined as "a state of stasis where there is neither motion or development and where there is no hope of change." Of course, a Visionmaker never accepts the tyranny of the status quo. He or she holds true to the firm belief that anything can be changed, ourselves included. That premise is central to Obama's promise to America. It is a promise, however, that will be difficult to deliver given the severity and confluence of problems.
Fortunately, President-elect Obama appears to take it all in his stride. He displays grace under pressure, displays intellectual curiosity, sound judgment and the resiliency to go the distance. Add that to what Colin Powell calls a "world-class temperment" and its quite a formidable combination of gifts.
The road forward for the new leader of the free world will be filled with challenges. But those are exactly the kind of conditions that Visionmakers thrive in. Hopefully, his journey will inspire leaders at every level and in every nation to challenge the status quo with a vision for positive change that cannot be stopped by the resistance of current conditions and circumstances.
© Patrick O’Neill 2008. All rights reserved.