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Lott: Election proves Americans want vision, purpose in leadership

POSTED: November 16, 2008 5:00 a.m.

When Sen. Barack Obama made his decision to run for president, I predicted that he would win despite the belief of many that America is not ready to elect a black man.

My prediction was based on the fact that we, the human race, are evolving to a higher level of thinking by forces beyond our control. It was also based on the fact that Obama is a rare, once-in-a-lifetime, transformational leader who transcends race and politics as usual. He understands much better than his opponents and critics that America and the world desperately need and want this kind of leadership, and that now is the time for fundamental change.

You will not see this bigger picture if you think this election was solely about being fed up with the Bush-Cheney policies and their conservative supporters. All of the upheavals and events that led up to the election didn't happen by accident. They happened to force us to look beyond our historical fears and denials, to the possibilities of our greatness as a nation.

This is a critical time in history of radical endings and beginnings and just about everyone is going through something. The influx of information and changes appears to be more than what many of us can process or accept. This is not a bad thing, for they are the signs of healing.

The old "military-manufacturing method" of leadership is dying and making room for a more compassionate, understanding, visionary, inclusive and fearless leadership adaptive to 21st century needs. The old worn-out "git 'er done at any cost" style of governing fails to bring the best out of people because it lacks vision and a greater purpose.

Human beings have a deep spiritual need to connect with something bigger than themselves. It doesn't matter what kind of work one does for a living, as long as he or she knows it serves a greater good and purpose. The old-style leadership ignores such needs of its frontline people and focuses inappropriately on its own narcissistic egos and impulses.

History is replete with the tragic results of this kind of misguided leadership. When used politically and militarily, it ends in a "quagmire" such as the conflicts in Vietnam and Iraq. When used economically, the result is greed, corruption and market collapse.

The so-called "trickle-down economics" lauded so strongly by Republicans and the right wing will never work because the premise on which it is based is fatally flawed. The rich will just keep getting richer and the poor will become poorer. We are being forced to learn that genuine leadership is less about doing and more about who and what leaders are inside.

As a matter of fact, the essence of politics is about what's going on inside each of us and authentic leadership helps us to understand this vital connection. Americans owe a great deal of gratitude to Obama for helping us see this bigger picture.

I am struck with Obama's ability to stay calm, focused and steady while under vicious and unwarranted personal attacks. Many of these Karl Rove-like attacks intentionally used implicit racist tactics to activate hidden racist stereotypes and beliefs just to get votes and money. They failed only because Obama did not react to them as a victimized black man, although such reactions are totally understandable given the history of racism in this country.

Obama has a deep, unshakable knowing that it's not that some Americans don't care, "they just don't get it." They don't get that things have unalterably changed and will continue to change and we can't stop it. Such persons are paralyzed with fear of change. They mistakenly believe by separating themselves from those whom they think are unlike them, they can be protected and secure. In their minds they think that "my religion," "my race," "my political party," "my country" will save me, not knowing that all such attempts to seek security in a world whose very nature is temporary and insecure is futile.

What such persons have not been shown or taught is that it's precisely this insane idea of separateness from life and other people that causes them to feel so fearful and insecure in the first place. Transformational leadership is uniquely prepared to help us move beyond these contradictions without alienating or excluding anyone. This is the only valid test of such a leader; the ability to bring people of different persuasions together under a common purpose for greater good for everyone involved.

What America needs more that anything right now is not more government or less government, not more or less of anything external to our beings. What America needs is a healed vision of life. And only leaders who have healed visions themselves, who know who they are inside, who feel comfortable and at peace in their own skin can move us in that direction.

The universe is making it known that it will have it no other way. People are hurting all over the world and each of us needs to understand that we are either part of the suffering and pain, or, we are part of the healing. Which one are you choosing?

Harold L. Lott is a Gainesville resident.



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