Why I’m supporting Barack Obama

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In 1962, President John F. Kennedy said in his famous moon speech “We choose to go to the moon. Not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard.

As a kid fascinated by the space program (I had a picture of the Shuttle launching on my wall), those words stuck with me throughout the years. From an early age, I can remember understanding that the good things in life don’t come easy. Through my Time-Life “Space” book, my rocket scientist Uncle’s stories, and later the fantastic HBO Series “From the Earth to the Moon“, I came to learn the history of what happens when inspired people are set forth on a common direction.

When JFK gave this famous speech, NASA had barely put a man into space. The idea of launching a crew, landing them on the moon, then returning them safely seemed insane. And yet an entire country rallied, inspired by a vision to make it happen. A radically short seven years later, Neil Armstrong was announcing “The Eagle has landed.

Flash forward to 2005.

Like so many others around the world, I watched in absolute shame as my fellow Americans were largely left to rot in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. Blame the locals, blame the state, blame the Army Corps of Engineers (they all certainly deserve it), but at the end of the day, this problem had turned into an issue so big, the Federal government was the only party capable of solving it. And they did.

5 days later.

It took 5 days for the Bush administration to recognize and accept that local/state government wasn’t getting the job done. It took 5 days to get food and water to the victims. It took 5 days to start evacuations. It took 5 days to bring in additional security. Dead bodies were floating down the streets of New Orleans, while President Bush was saying “”Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

Those words made me determined that I was done with status quo. I was done with continuing to send the same leadership back to Washington over and over again. While the Bush Administration has been the poster child for “politics as usual”, the same issue applies to the Clintons. I’m 33 years old and I’ve had the opportunity to vote in 4 presidential elections. Every one of those elections has had a Bush or a Clinton running in it. I’m sick to death of that reality and I’m not willing to accept it.

Fortunately, we’ve been introduced to an incredibly inspiring candidate: Barack Obama. I’ve been fascinated by his campaign, inspired by his words, and electrified by his spirit. He’s done the impossible for me: made me believe that I can, in fact, change the world.

I believe changing the world isn’t not only possible, it’s the only moral choice a citizen can make. I make a living off of empowering the individual, bringing the voice of the little guy to a position of power, changing the way the world interacts with each other. Like Obama says:

One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a senate, and if it can change a senate, it can change a state, and if it change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world.

I’m tired of the Republicans trying to convince me this is a foolish. I’m tired of the Clintons trying to tell me that the best we can do is operate within the bounds of the politics that they know.

I support Barack Obama because he’s the only candidate in my lifetime who truly, honestly believes that my voice is powerful. He’s the only one who seems to understand that protecting “our way of life” isn’t simply killing “terrorists”, but preserving our moral standing. He’s the only candidate that isn’t so disconnected from the rest of us that he understands that we’re tired of good cop/bad cop politics of Bill and Hillary, of George and Dick.

His opponents always scream “Experience! He has no experience!” Bullshit.

Obama has “good” experience. He’s not made a career (yet) out of Washington, and after seeing what “experience” has brought us the last 8 years, I’m not sure that’s a very good argument.

Experience is a dangerous selection criteria. When I started at LEGO in 2000, the company was just about to take a financial nose dive. The COO was basically running the company. This guy absolutely ran the company into the ground, loosing $213 million dollars in the last year he was there. He was a disaster. He also had a resume of impressive positions as long as my arm.

The choice of the new CEO caused quite a stir in the both the company and in the media. Jørgen Vig Knudstrop was 35 years old and had only been at LEGO for 5 years. I’m not sure that he’d ever been a CEO before. People went nuts saying that there was no way he could manage a billion dollar company. At the time, I said the same thing I’m saying about Obama: Bullshit.

Turns out, Jørgen Vig has turned out to be an amazing leader who has turned the company around financially as well as spiritually. Getting LEGO back on track wasn’t just about cutting costs or reducing staff. It was about inspiring the employees to remember why they loved their jobs and the company and the product when they first joined. It was about doing away with sacred cows that had been embedded in the old guard. It was about getting both himself and his employees excited about a higher calling that was long forgotten by the “safe” candidates for CEO.

Obama makes me believe. He restores my faith in the vision that is this country. He helps remind me that even in times of war, setting aside your morals is unacceptable. He makes me want to find a better way to live my life. He makes me ask myself hard questions like what I’d personally be willing to do to eliminate foreign oil. He makes me not only understand that there’s usually more to a story than a 30 second soundbite allows, and more importantly he makes me want to find out what it is. He makes me want to participate.

Inspiration, not management is the single most important quality of a leader. You can hire accountants, you can hire researchers, you can hire managers. The one thing you can’t outsource is a leader’s ability to inspire those around them to believe that they can make truly amazing things happen.

I’m ready for a leader to inspire us to face and eliminate our racial issues. I’m ready for a candidate who will inspire us with honest discussion and debate, not scare us into alignment. I’m ready not just for change, but inspired change. I’m ready to start building the story I’ll tell my (future) adult daughter about how my generation, like her grandparent’s generation, helped make her world a better place.

I support Barack Obama because he is the only candidate who’s not tripping over themselves to tell me why I’m a naive fool for believing this might actually be possible.

Yes we can.