November 5, 2008

Before Obama said 'yes we can!'

This blog has featured several articles on something called stereotype vulnerability (read Stereotype vulnerability research: bridging social and ethnical performance gaps, 5 Experiments that make you think, and Self confirming beliefs). What I said in one of these posts is that I find this line of research so interesting because it allows for some optimistic conclusions about bridging performance gaps between different social and ethnical groups. In this sense this research might be an example of A social science about what could be. Today, history has been written. Barrack Obama has been voted president of the United States and will, like they say, become the most powerful person in the world. Who'd have thought that a person with a brown skin could do something like that? Who'd have thought a majority of 'white' voters could do something like that?

In his victory speech, Obama used the phrase 'Yes we can', like he has done many times before during the campaign. In his speech addressing the Democratic National Convention in 2004, Obama said: 'Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?' Obviously he has chosen for the latter and he chose to call his book: The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (Vintage). Before Obama stepped up saying 'Yes we can', he must have reached another conclusion first, which is: 'Yes I can'. Of course, he will have been aware of the stereotypes and the cynicism that is there. And before he invited the American people to see that 'out of many we are one, that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism and doubt, and those that tell us, we can't, we will respond with ... yes we can', he must have made the choice himself to rise above the cynicism, stereotypes and doubt.

Several politicians have said they want to be uniters instead of dividers but have not been very convincing. Obama has been convincing because his life and his campaign have shown examples of how he indeed is becoming a uniter. When tested, he has shown courage, mildness to individuals and consistency. This is what makes leaders like Nelson Mandela and Barrack Obama irresistible: they invite us to bridge gaps and rise above ourselves and obstacles while we can actually observe them doing that themselves.

I don't believe in Utopia and I believe the importance of leadership is often overestimated. This means that during Obama's presidency, problems will remain, challenges will be great, and mistakes will be made. But I do believe in progress, in the possibility of improving the situation we are in. I feel this is progress. It's awesome!


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