Barrack Obama, the junior senator from my state of Illinois, is presently the most talked about politician in America. I am not sympathetic with some of the political philosophy of Barrack Obama. If he is nominated for the presidency in 2008 he will most assuredly need to present a thoughtful expression of his views on many issues, something he has yet to do. Having said this I must confess that I actually like Obama a great deal and I find his credibility as a person quite compelling.
I expect many conservatives will quickly say to me "No way I can listen to Obama, he is a liberal Democrat." I would say, "Before you assume the worst about him, and there is much to disagree with that can be seen in his senate votes to this point, read the man’s story. Listen to what he says and how he says it." Obama’s expression of how he came to Christian faith (in this week’s TIME magazine excerpt from his new book, The Audacity of Hope) is quite moving to me. Frankly, Obama is someone who compels me to listen to him and to take him seriously in a way that I find surprising. Only two, or at most three, leaders on the present political scene fit this description for me.
Besides the various questions that Obama must answer to become a viable candidate for president, if he does choose to run, I would ask a question that is rarely asked in partisan debates: "What consitutes true leadeship and how much does this matter in a president?" I would argue that in the twentieth century presidents like Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Harry Truman and Ronald Reagain were true leaders. (Most fair-minded people agree that Abraham Lincoln was the best such leader we have ever had. I can hear the anti-Lincoln crowd saying "No" even as they read my words!) Such leaders, regardless of their politics, compelled people to listen to them and to believe them. They had vision, perspective, conviction and an ability to show genuine impartiality. They also had unique communication skills, intellectual curiosity, genuine empathy and the ability to listen to others before they made up their minds. They could also face negative poll numbers and hold their ground if they felt they were right in principle.
I found it interesting that TIME noted that Barrack Obama makes white people feel that they are not responsible for "collective guilt" about the nation’s race struggles. We have been impacted by race as much as any Western nation. I am interested in anyone who can help us further the national healing that is desperately needed. I do wish the church would play a much larger role in this healing process but we are still segregated in the Christian community and will not admit it or face it.
Does Obama have these qualities of real leadership? We will find out if he runs for president, or at least I hope we do. He has a lot to offer to a nation that hungers for a new kind of leadership.