Friday, January 04, 2008
Obama and the Power of Plenty
I arrived as a 9th grade drop-out working for Apple Computer and while I didn't leave a millionaire, I became a consultant to Fortune 500 companies, charging thousands of dollars a day for my uneducated advice and telling CEO's and executives of major companies how to run their companies better and they were listening. I started companies, helped manage a half a billion of venture capital for some of the World's richest people and had all the material trappings of wealth.
I always say that "success requires a persistent misreading of the odds" (a quote from Tom Peters) for the odds were not that I had a good chance of having the success I did when I left home for California. But I was full of hope.
One of my favorite quotes is "“Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope”
I have always been interested in politics and I've watched many political speeches both of living Politicians and of those who have passed. I have watched grainy videos of Martin Luther King Jr, JFK, Bobby Kennedy, Roosevelt, (not so grainy) Trudeau and many other Politicians of a different time wondering if ever there would be a speech given by someone in my lifetime as powerful as theirs by a person as galvanizing and enchanting as them.
Instead, I have had to content myself with remarking how well a spin was made, an accusation or barb thrown, a defense or criticism made, a policy articulated. The closest I got was Jeb Bartlett created by Aaron Sorkin and Hugh Grant as Prime Minister of the U.K. I, like many people, had lost hope that a Politician would come around and actually inspire me. Until last night.
This speech moved me to tears.
His opponents' criticisms (e.g. his inexperience and naivety on foreign affairs) now seem to me part of his appeal. Of course, it shouldn't surprise you that a 9th grade drop-out who became a consultant to CEO's feels that sometimes, inexperience is to be coveted.
I often tell people the story of how the Polaroid camera was invented. Edwin Land was a Harvard-educated Scientist who tried to share his scientific experience while on vacation with his three-year old daughter. She wanted to see the pictures they were taking right away and he was trying to explain the process by which pictures are developed. Not having any of the inertia that comes from experience, she wasn't convinced that his explanation was the ONLY answer. Edwin was prompted to think outside the box and soon after, the Polaroid camera was invented.
With experience comes inertia. An acceptance of the "norm" the "status quo." A cold, calculating look at the odds as a means by which to determine whether to try.
"Hope is the power that gives us the power to step out and try.”
Last night, a Politician gave me and millions of other people Hope. His name is Barack Hussein Obama and I believe that he is now destined to become the 45th President of the United States of America.
Pragmatically, one can question whether it would be better for Obama to be elected President later after someone else who is more hardened tries to clean up the massive mess that's been made. As an investor, I was taught to never throw "good money after bad" but this assumes you are content to write the investment off. We're talking about a Country here, a Country that Obama reminded us last night has the potential to be great.
I don't think anyone wants to write off the United States of America. It's time to throw good after bad.
I've decided that I'm going to head down to South Carolina on January 26th.
I'm making the trip because I've never been as inspired by a Politician living in my lifetime as I have been by Barack Obama.
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