Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Is Obama Helping Us Coppice?

As the flow of ink becomes exponential describing and analyzing the escalating battle between two able presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, we search to identify and feel comfortable with the forces in play. Many pundits refer to Obama’s appeal as a “movement”, the likes of which we have not seen since the beginning of the civil rights era or the challenges to the status quo by baby boomers in the 1960s. The women’s movement led by Betty Freidan, Gloria Steinem and others derives from that time too.

We are overdue for renewal of some kind. Both candidates speak to this. Perhaps Obama does it just a little better, as in the ecological practice of “coppicing”---cutting trees down to the base every few years to allow more light to reach the forest floor.

Obama, because of his appeal to the younger generation and others who feel as if they are on the outside looking in, might be fostering in their imaginations greater diversity of opportunity faster, as occurs with coppicing. Change under his watch, they might reason, could happen with far more speed and intensity than under Hillary’s. That idea, it seems, is catching fire. That’s a movement. There is pent up frustration. Consciously or unconsciously, Obama, more so than Hillary, might represent the way to greater sunlight in the minds of an increasing number of delegates.

Are we witnessing the way of nature? Certainly, the Obama fever is reminiscent of the early days of courting when our critical minds take flight for awhile. Those instances don’t occur very often as all the right circumstances need to be in play including an unconscious biological connection gifted to us by our ancestors.

We do recover about three years out or sooner, when the hormones masking our judgment cool down and allow for a more balanced view of the special person in our life. In many instances, we were right on in our choice. Sometimes, not and hopefully, we can move on. But, at least we gave ourselves the chance at choice.

Leadership isn’t just about the facts. It’s also about art and music. It’s something that resonates deeply in our souls. We are witnessing that drama in the United States presidential primaries. We map that drama onto our own leadership experiences in our respective countries and work places to compare notes. We ask ourselves over and over again---what kind of leaders really do make a difference?

The Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama story will continue to fascinate us for a long time, regardless of who makes it to the podium. Both have enormous potential to tame the wildness of the times. Both offer pathways through the wilderness. Both have enough bandwidth to help us build more resilient societies.

But do both recognize the importance of biodiversity, a precursor for resilience? Obama’s appeal is in that direction. To deliver is another matter.

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