Obama's Main Lesson

With the inaugural address behind us, attention has now shifted to how President Obama is handling his first few days on the job. Since winning the November election, Obama has not appeared to need on the job training. His calm demeanor, his judicious choice of collaborators, and his expeditious handling of controversial issues like Gitmo and torture have all been embraced by the electorate. So much for the campaign rhetoric about inexperience.

What is most refreshing these days has a lot to do with how people around the world are responding to Obama. The cynicism that had infected voters’ perception of their politicians has given way to enthusiam and hope that something different is happening. In the last two days, I have spoken to an International Women’s Forum chapter and the recipients of Canadian Millenium fund scholarships. The reaction to Obama’s victory and inaugural address has been absolutely astonishing. Though their high expectations have been tempered by a sobering dose of realism, feelings of admiration and hope have pushed cynicism and skepticism to the background. People are using words like inspirational, respect, engagement and excitement to express what they feel. The noble side of politics is now in fashion.

This may be illusory and it may be temporary, but it could also be contagious. Young people are wanting to be part of the Obama movement. Even his inaugural address, the rhetoric of which may not have been memorable, has been dissected and is considered to be the roadmap for an ambitious and visionary presidency.

Much has been said in recent days about the qualities Obama imparted on the election: perseverence, audacity, technological know-how, and so on. But the main lesson we should retain from his success is that if you treat voters with respect and give them the hard facts, they will respond and they will want to be involved. That, more than anything else, is what has restored the nobility in politics.