Farewell Address, 2017 Inauguration, and Sentiments on Democracy

Elections, Leadership, Politics

The end of 2016 came at us hard and fast as we the people elected a new President into office. With the inauguration of our 45th president coming up on January 20th, I thought I would get ahead of the political articles, whether positive or negative, that will soon flood your timelines. But instead of focusing on the inauguration, I want to highlight a few points Barack Obama made during his Farewell Address.

In case you missed it, last Tuesday, January 10th, Barack Obama gave his Farewell Address to the American people in Chicago where his political career began. He touched on many topics, some of which were all that America has accomplished in the last eight years, race, healthcare, and finding common ground as American people. In my opinion, his speech was powerful and there were so many wonderful points made, but I cannot cover them all in just one blog post. With that being said, I do want to echo his sentiments on democracy using his own words from the address, my thoughts, and the thoughts of Viola Davis, an American producer and actress.

My first time able to practice voting rights as an American citizen was during the 2016 Presidential Election. What an initiation to politics, am I right? With the election’s outcome, I am now more tuned into politics than ever. But more importantly, I am committed to spreading the truth about democracy.

Democracy (n.) – a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.

Now, I hate to state the obvious but, nothing about democracy says people do not have a voice. It actually states that the “whole population” does. So, while I wasn’t thrilled about our nation’s selection for president on Tuesday, November 8th, 2016, we, as the American people, did elect Trump. I think Viola Davis said it best when she was asked about Donald Trump backstage at the Golden Globes.  She said, I think that America in and of itself has been an affirmation, but I think we’ve fallen short a lot because there is no way that we can have anyone in office that is not an extension of our own belief system. So then, what does that say about us? And I think that, if you answer that question, I think that that says it all.” 

Oftentimes, we feel as though we don’t have a say in our governance. But what you might not know is that “voting rates in America are some of the lowest among advanced democracy.” How embarrassing! It’s not that we don’t have a say, it’s that we don’t use our say. You can’t be upset about the outcome of the election if you didn’t vote because you willingly gave up your voice. It shows a lack of maturity and ownership to simply blame the elected for circumstances that took a nation to create. Put simply, “We weaken those ties (democracy)… When we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and when we sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.” As American citizens, we all played and continue to play a role in how we are governed, who is elected, and much more. We must accept “… the responsibility of citizenship, regardless of which way the pendulum of power happens to be swinging.” We must always be involved and in tune with what is going on so that we can speak up on all issues, not just the ones that seem to directly affect us.

Being involved and in tune is necessary because every time we give up our power to speak through voting, writing to an elected official, protesting, or petitioning, we weaken our countries democracy. “George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity, and liberty, but ‘from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken… to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth’.” George Washington was right. Whenever we feel as though we have no say in our governance, in our minds the conviction of the truth about democracy, the fact that democracy includes and encourages the voices of everyone, is weakened.

With that being said, when things in politics are not going your way instead of giving up on the system and calling it corrupt, it is important to realize that “democracy does not require uniformity. Democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity.” This means that if you want to see change the opportunity is there. Find a group of people who feel the same way about issues you’re passionate about, and take those concerns known to your elected officials. Better yet, if you feel so compelled, take steps to become an elected official, but do not mistake lack of action for freedom of expression. When it comes to democracy, action is the only way to express oneself. Silence does nothing.

I’ll end with my favorite quote from the night. “Change only happens when ordinary people get involved, and they get engaged and they come together to demand it.”

For eight years Barack Obama has led our nation in change, and if the inauguration on January 20th, 2017, sparks anything in you, I urge you to demand the change you want to see, because democracy is a powerful thing if used correctly.

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Leadership

Leadership

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

In all my years of being a member of a team, this statement has always held true. In a team each member is trying their best to not only raise their level, but to raise the level of the people around them. The people who are able to do this the best are usually labeled as leaders. Why you ask? Simply because they can capture the attention of many and make them believe that what they bring to the table is unique; they make them feel important, necessary and needed.

But how do you get to that point? While there are many ways to be a leader and everyone has their own definition, I think that it is hard to pull the best out of people when they don’t feel that you have their best interest in mind.

Think about it, if you knew that someone had full faith in your abilities, was ready to support you no matter the outcome and was completely invested in your success as well as in the success of the group, how would you feel?

It really all comes down to being genuine, and this is where most “leaders” fall short. To say you care and to actually care are two different things. Sometimes leaders have to go the extra mile to show this and to make sure that their followers know and understand their care for them.

For each leader this means something different. Maybe going the extra mile from someone is taking their colleagues out to lunch. For others it might be a candid conversation, but I feel that too often we set checklists of tangible qualities (i.e. time management, organization, etc.) that leaders should possess, and forget the intangible qualities (i.e. empathy, transparency, etc.) that are undoubtably necessary to be a successful leader.

What does it matter if you are available to your followers if they do not feel comfortable approaching you? An open door system only works if people actually walk through the door. That might mean you, as the leader, need to cross the thresh hold into the world of your followers instead of always having them come to you. Meet them half way and sometimes just go the full distance; I’m sure your relationship with them will grow tremendously after that.

What does being vocal and confident really do for anyone if they cannot see that their leader is fully invested. By fully invested I mean that the leader is ready to act upon their words if they have not already. If you do not act as an example for what you want to see, you are not a leader, you’re just bossy. Taking the time to demonstrate to your followers what you want to see carries more weight than simply telling them.

All in all, it all comes down to being genuine and good leaders are genuine; they care about the people that follow them and they show that. By doing so they empower the people around them to be the best they can be, which ultimately leads to an unstoppable and successful team.

Next time you get an opportunity to lead, don’t forget that while the logistical side of leadership is important, so is the personal side. People are going to want to do a lot more for you if they know that you care. Keep that in mind.