Article

Be A Catalyst

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Learning to be a great leader is the last area where anyone is a novice all over again.

And unlike most training programs, students of leadership get their marks from the people they lead.

Since being popular and being accurate don’t always go hand in hand, it’s the job of a great leader to show the people a vision of the road ahead that they can get behind.

Whether born with greatness or having had greatness thrust upon them, great leaders must become human catalysts – jump-starting a call to integrity that is required for the survival of a free society.

In the second presidential debate a week ago, the needle on my catalyst meter barely shuddered as occasionally an original statement gasped for air through the crowd of buzzwords and incomplete thoughts.

The wordiness of both candidates was finally called out by Tom Brokaw, who compared it to the national deficit.

Although I am an independent voter – raised conservative and, I like to say, seasoned as a liberal, I am a former Hillary Clinton supporter who is voting for Barack Obama. So naturally I wanted my candidate to do better in the debate.

I kind of like John McCain, even though I’m irked by his refusal to back viable sources of renewable, safe carbon-free energy and I don’t think he’s the best man for the job of president.

I will even defend McCain from the whining of young liberals who declared on twitter.com during the debate, "He’s not my friend, I wish he would stop saying that."

"My friends" is how Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed Americans during his first Fireside Chat after the banking system collapsed.

Maybe liberals’ disgust at McCain’s attempt to be their friend is a message: "My friends" sounded genuine in 1929, and hackneyed in 2008.

In other words, what works in one time period may not work in another. And while Obama did not have the audacity to assume a friendship with his countrymen, his performance in the second debate still disappointed me.

I went back and watched it again, and I realized that Obama mentioned the ideas I cared about – solving the energy and climate dilemma and steering the nation once again toward a direction where quality of life matters.

But both candidates spoke in a toxic cloud of buzzwords – "middle class," "wages and income," "ordinary families," "earmarks," "Middle Eastern oil," all valid talking points that have unfortunately become so cheap we completely zone out when we hear them.

Instant sedative.

To be fair, I’m glad Obama defended himself in the debate; he still has more chutzpah than the last four Democratic candidates put together.

And then there was that little matter of the near-collapse of the banking system and the implosion of the housing market that he had to address at the last minute.

The Economic Crisis of 2008 TM would have probably caused even FDR to pause. But then, I say he would have taken a moment, scrapped his script, and talked directly to the American people – kind of like Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin did during the vice presidential debate, except with actual things to say.

What surprised me, too, was that Obama did not impress upon us that his energy solution is a big part of his economic solution. All the right words were there, but we could barely hear them.

Tonight I want to hear him cut through the bull and give us a vision of what lies ahead.

Obama already has my vote. He is the clear choice for those of us who want to preserve the ways of science and reason as opposed to fear and superstition. But I’m still waiting for the poetry and the passion. Ronald Reagan may have run up the national debt, but he knew how to comfort the nation when the Challenger crew was lost forever.

I can’t say what it is exactly that Barack Obama needs to do. I haven’t been to leadership school. But I’ll know it when I see it.


Comments (24 comments)

harry. s. / October 15th, 2008, 5:23 pm / #1

McCain’s overcooked affectation, "My friends" went from the ridiculous to the absurd as the count of his use of this phrase pushed upwards of 50 times in a matter of 90 minutes. I was ready to throw my remote control at the TV if he said it one more time…does he not hear himself sounding forced and phony with the use of "my friends." For some reason it irked the heck out of me…someone who cannot recoginze an overused turn of a phrase somehow has a hole in his head that needs filling. I felt like shrinking into the couch as i imagined how many millions of people must have thought he should stop, please stop, using that phrase. Once, maybe, or twice…but when he has turned it into a verbal addiction, something is wrong. I’ve got my clicker ready tonight…if he uses it more than five times, you might hear my scream from afar.

Happy&Free: .) / October 15th, 2008, 6:02 pm / #2

R u sure Reagan made that speech? Thought that speech was written for him?
Never supported Hilary, wasn’t voting at all this year. No one satisfied me yet till after I saw Obama in the heat w/ the preacher inncedent! Took the time to hear him more closely. And he reimnds me of alot of black folks who helped my mom raise me, w/ tremendous influence, growing up in Chicago & here in Va. I feel at home w/ him! His answers most of the time r kindred. He speeks to me like he’s family, his tone speaks w/ a sincer brotherly love & care for everyone. Hope he sure wins!

H&F: .) / October 15th, 2008, 8:36 pm / #3

I missed this debate! Darn! hope it reruns. Sorry Tatiana, didn’t pay close attention it was u that wrote this! Running w/ mommy responsibilities & emails! Hi! Great job writting it!
“Whether born w/ greatness or having had…” who originated that speach? Obama? Heard it before.
I’m glade I missed all the repetative “My friends” from McCain! When I see the rerun soon (doing a search on my DVR) I’ll be sure to put the mute button on, no wait, I don’t know when he’ll be saying it! ahhhhh…I shall just have to endure the repeatativeness of this phrase in his speach, as the rest of u did! = (
Poor man!
Well Harry, I laughed thru ur whole comment !! Awesome job stating it! Felt like I was watching a skit from the news anchors in SNL! = ) Thks for the crack up!

Matt / October 16th, 2008, 12:32 am / #4

I agree. All three debates have been flat.

I think part of the problem is that there isn’t really much opportunity for Obama to offer a soaring (or sobering) vision of the future because he’s spending all his time fending off attacks from McCain. Conventional wisdom is that playing defense makes you a loser, but Obama’s coolness under fire has won him all the debates in polling. Coolness is also a fine leadership attribute.

I’ve been thinking tonight that there is an underlying reason for the emphasis on the cool defensive posture in the debates, and I think it’s specifically to model a leadership-style markedly distinct from G.W. Bush’s hot-headed, overconfident style. Obama listens politely, then takes the time to set the record straight. When the debates are over, McCain always gets the blame for the dreary tone because he set it.

I don’t think Obama wants to use the debates as a pulpit to offer comfort and honesty to the worried masses. Instead, he wants to model patience and courtesy and confidence. It leaves supporters feeling empty and disappointed because we’ve seen him better than this (and expected more), but it does the job it needs to, apparently, with independents because it strikes at the heart of the trust issues many of them still have with Obama.

Maybe his big ad-buy broadcast just before the election will be the occasion when he gives us what you’re hoping for.

Tatiana Prophet / October 16th, 2008, 9:46 am / #5

@Harry: You’re right, many times I’ve cringed watching McCain, and last night was no different. If you don’t realize you’re overusing a phrase like “my friends,” doesn’t that show a great disconnect? And he used it again last night, though not as often. He was too busy talking about Joe the Plumber. My God, what a train wreck! Obama gave the same answer about Joe the Plumber every single time — and I was disapointed that he did not address more forcefully McCain’s claim that Joe the Plumber is not going to be able to buy the business under an Obama administration because he would be making more than $250,000 a year. I really wonder how those numbers crunch out. Has anybody ever thought that small business ownership is not a right — anymore than home ownership is, as we are so aptly seeing? It should be nurtured at every turn, don’t get me wrong. One thing Obama did point out is that by being able to get a 50% discount on health care premiums, small businesses would save a lot of money that they are now spending as they buckle under the burden of soaring health care costs. How would Obama pay for that? Remember, in 2006 the United Health care CEO was going to walk away with $1.1 billion in stock options and retirement benefits, according to the Wall Street Journal. There was an uproar. I don’t know if he actually got away with it. The health insurers are bleeding everyone dry. That’s where we need some indictments.

@Happy & Free: Thanks for your comments. After the Challenger disaster, Reagan gave a great speech that was most definitely written by a speechwriter. And it quoted the oft-repeated “…slipped the surly bonds of earth and touched the face of God,” which was taken from a poem written by a young American pilot from WWII. Nevertheless, Reagan approved it and he communicated it beautifully. My point was that you can be a great orator and be an empty-headed fool. We need a great orator and someone with some gray matter between the ears.

@Matt: Thanks for your analysis. I am encouraged by what you said. And I think Obama did slightly better last night. He’s still not cutting through the BS, but maybe you’re right. Maybe he will with this air time he’s bought.

darkeros / October 16th, 2008, 11:05 am / #6

I would have to say that the fundamental difference between Obama in the debate format and Reagan’s speech after the Challenger accident are the formats and thus, you can’t compare them. I think most everyone who watched Obama give his speech at the Convention was riveted and swept up by his spirited vision for our future. As a speaker, he has also been able to create the felt sense that this is truly about all of us… not just a president, but each one of us individually. I have experienced that more from Obama than any other political leader I have heard before. He is one of us… not some mythological creature, but a human being that is very intelligent yet more than anything, is our spokesperson who needs us to work as hard as he does to change the world. He is not going to do the miracles… WE are. So perhaps that is also it. He is not super inflated.

As far as a debate format, you have no time as a speaker to warm up and engage, connect. He did his best job during the second debate when he could walk and talk directly to individuals. Something in the simple movements of his body conveyed so much more than his sitting behind a desk.

One political analyst I know says that for these debates the most important thing Obama can do is stay on the issues and keep repeating, like a broken record, what he is going to do about them. Remember, at this point it is convincing some simple minded confused people what the right thing to do is at this point…. and thus keep the message simple and clean and repetitive.

There is NOTHING I like about McCain… I am sorry to say. As a human being, I am sure I would enjoy listening to his stories and observing the eccentric ways of a senior citizen. As a speaker, he is embarrassing. Running for president, he is dangerous in his stupidity and his willful act of dumbing this election down by his chosen rhetoric. He is BAD.

So I say… wait until Obama gives his acceptance speech… it will be momentous, one that goes down in world history as one of the greats.

Its going to be orgasmic! Because we will all be in the bed of this hard won victory, together.

H&F: .) / October 16th, 2008, 5:19 pm / #7

No no no no…thk u ! No gray matter between the ears, uh uh, not again, ever please! Fake & Atrificial is not a good thing for anyone, especially a Nation. Children, their hard wking parents, seniors, pets, the planet, don’t deserve Fake & Artificial. We need Reality, Truth, Courage, Wisdom….And I think that’s what seperates Obama from not only McCain & Bush but especially Reagan. I look forward to the history Obama is going to set forth after he gets elected. Because if he doesn’t get elected, this Nation will be stuck in the past the nxt 4 yrs!

Who did say “Whether born w/ greatness or having had….”, I’ve heard it around or did I hear Obama use it too. I’m remembering a commecial but I think I thought the commercial got it from Obama. If u can let me know, thks?
As for orgasmic, yuk, no thk u, he’s a married man. I prefer exhilarating. Much more to my tast.

Tatiana Prophet / October 16th, 2008, 5:37 pm / #8

@Darkeros: Thank you for your assessment of the format that we’ve most commonly seen the candidates in recently. I agree with you that these formats are not conducive to the expressions of a great orator. I think because I feel so passionate about the battle for energy and the fight against superstition, I would like to hear a candidate become passionate about those things — to draw the line and remind everyone what is at stake here.

We are fighting to continue our way of life, in a country that should be a beacon of hope and freedom for those who experience prejudice, hatred of women, religious domination and cronyism in nearly every sector. We need to be reminded that not everyone sees the world through eyes of Biblical literalism or an oddly eager anticipation of the end times, either, or just plain faulty logic (Drill, baby, drill!), or even the idea that reforming the health care system automatically equals lack of health care choice.

We need to be reminded that 2 plus 2 really does equal 4, and that there are actual ways of finding out solutions to an issue — that we don’t have to grow old and die with a national media that is actually too dull to realize they’ve been tricked into reinforcing the notion that evolution has two sides — one that says it’s a fact and the other that says, falsely, that it’s still a theory. No wonder I feel so hopeless all the time. I think there’s a subtle message that there’s really no way to get to a place where a child does not go 11 days without her broken leg being set (yes, I wrote about this as a reporter) because, well, the issues are just cloudy and there’s just a bunch of opposing opinions — when there are real facts and real things we can do about them. By the way, the reason her leg was not set was because she had MediCal, and few orthopedic doctors are available to provide care to MediCal holders because it doesn’t pay enough. What?! That’s the sort of thing I want to hear — so that we can see our way clear. I won’t accept that we cannot have a better quality of life because, well, the only solution is something like Stalinism in the ’40s. Give me a break. Totalitarianism is not and never has been the same thing as a government figuring out a way for all citizens, from every strata, to make an honest living and enjoy some meaning before the lights in their brains go out.

Tatiana Prophet / October 16th, 2008, 5:39 pm / #9

@Happy & Free:

By gray matter, I was referring to brain material.

“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them”. – Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare, Act II, Scene V

:)

H&F: .) / October 16th, 2008, 8:37 pm / #10

Tatiana,
Thks never knew that. Never had time to read all of Shakespears material. And yes, I know u ment the brain, I misunderstood it seems, I thought that u ment it’s ok to have another empty headed President just as long as he’s a great orator. The word SOME made me misunderstand, “some” threw me off. Okedokey?
Do u remember about the boy who died here in D.C., because of an infection from his tooth that reached his brain? His mother couldn’t afford to go to a dentist & it turned out that his tooth had an infection that was obviously life threatening.
I hurt my leg 3 months ago, have medicaid thru disability & found out the dumb ass Physician should have gotten an MRI of my leg, since the X-ray showed it wasn’t broken & it clearly was a sprain. My leg still hurts & this physician didn’t want to set up a follow up w/ me. I’m going to have to search for a new orthopedist & ask for an MRI since my ankle still hurts very much.
I have medicaid also for my son & a couple of years ago he had a cough that wouldn’t go away for 3 months. I asked the physicians to please get an x-ray to see if it’s pnomonea, they gave me a load of excuses I didn’t accept & I’m familiar w/ Physicians’ excuses. No one gave me a presciption for an x-ray! Nothing I could do! My son soon had a temperature of 103.4, off to the emergancy room & yes he had pnomonea w/ the flu! Soon as his temp went down we left w/ medicine. Temperature didn’t stay down, this time it reached 103.9, so bk to the emergancy room but before that happened as I waited for our ride there, I called his PCPh to let him know how upset I was on what he had negleted to do on what I had suspected! Good I did this because he immediatly called the hospital to prepare a room for us to chk in as soon as we got there! They took care of him & his body temp normalised in 2 days! Thk goodness for everyone because I would of sued these bastards pants off!!! I just remebered I actually went twice to the medical clinic because they said no the 1st time, so thought I could get a different Dr too agree to the x-ray & that female phys ALSO had refused w/ a bunch of excuses to go w/ it ! That’s when my boy soon then got a fever that didn’t go down till twice entering the emergancy room!
Medicaid physicians cut corners, don’t make intelligent decisions because they r to focused on the money costs! Pathetic! And I bet a lot of these physicians go to church too, yuk!
Thks for responding! = )

becky lipinski / October 18th, 2008, 1:42 pm / #11

Tatiana, thank you for such a measured essay! For personal reasons (which you and I have discussed previously) I’m unlikely to get excited about political candidates. They are all ambitious creatures, afterall–and ambition makes me wary. I also refrain from seeing them in black-and-white terms: nefarious villains vs. fair-haired saviors. Been there, done that. Still, I share your hope that we can achieve some kind of productive change after this election..

Rusty / October 19th, 2008, 1:35 am / #12

But both candidates spoke in a toxic cloud of buzzwords – “middle class,” “wages and income,” “ordinary families,” “earmarks,” “Middle Eastern oil,” all valid talking points that have unfortunately become so cheap we completely zone out when we hear them.

Instant sedative.

Well said, Tatiana. But I can’t help blaming the people over the politicians. Suppose Obama believes gay marriage is perfectly harmless and wholesome, as I do. If he takes that stand–and loses because of it–who wins?

McCain.

Happy&Free: .) / October 19th, 2008, 6:37 pm / #13

Rusty,
Exactly! I say he’s playing safe & smart ! Obama knows what cards to play to win this election!

Christopher / October 24th, 2008, 5:30 pm / #14

These debates offer little in the way of educating ourselves about candidates beyond providing an opportunity to see how they face opposition in a controlled setting. The result, unfortunately, is that they promote the average uninformed voter to cast a vote based on a popularity contest.

Would it be to much for the media to give voters examples of voter history research sites such as votesmart.org? Additionally, where were the third party and independents in the debates?

Some mention of voting record was mentioned but not enough. I would have liked McCain to look into the camera and ask the people of state of Illinois if they are happy with the votes that Obama has cast as Senator and then question him about some of those votes. At the least that question would prompt the average debate watching Illinois voter to realize they don’t know his record. Many probably don’t even know he is a Senator.

Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t support McCain either. I would have voted for him in the last two elections but now he has bowed to the religious right, changing his views to fit the extreme right to secure their vote. As a 33 yr. old married white male, I have have always considered myself a fiscally conservative Republican trying to ignore the Christians in the party. Sadly, the group no longer acts fiscally conservative and have reduced themselves to embracing and promoting the extreme right-wing christian machine. This leaves those of us that are non-believer Republicans or non-practicing religious Republicans without a say in our party.

I’m voting Libertarian this election, not that it matters. It looks like you Obama supporters will have your way unless I’m underestimating the potential of ignorant racist white voters in this country to get off their lazy asses to vote. As a small business owner in the financial sector an Obama victory is not what I want, even if he is promising a solution to our health insurance problem. Unfortunately, I cannot see how a Democratic President that tows the far left Liberal line coupled with a Democratic Congress can be good for our nation. The financial cost will be tremendous as will the loss of business, but I admit Bush has proven he cannot do much better.

Good Luck America!

Christopher

Emilie Gosline / October 24th, 2008, 6:29 pm / #15

Hi, Tatiana,
It is good to hear from you in this forum.
From reading your remarks I have considered that possibly you do not know about some of what had been silenced in the public media but has run rampant on the internet.
A Pennsylvania attorney, Philip J. Berg, has filed a lawsuit against Barack Obama claiming that Obama is a foreign national and as such is not qualified under the U.S. constitution to run for president. In his interview on Savage Nation with Michael Savage.
Mr. Berg said he has a taped recording of Barack Obama’s Kenyan grandmother saying that she was present at Barack’s birth in Kenya.
Mr. Berg’s website is: http://www.obamacrimes.com
and Mr. Savage has the 10/24/08 audio interview on: michaelsavage.wnd.com
There have been attempts by the Obama camp to produce documents but these do not pass with counterfeiting experts.
Emilie Gosline

Louis / October 25th, 2008, 11:08 pm / #16

I’m voting Libertarian this election, not that it matters.

Actually Christopher, I think it may matter.

I know of many who share your sentiments and a bulk of them have decided to vote as you are.

Right now the Neo-Christians are monopolizing the party and dictating the agenda. Voting independent won’t secure the office of president, but it will send a message to the Republican party. Muzzle that Christian dog, kick it off the furniture and don’t let it piss all over the carpet.

Also Barak is likely gonna pull this one off. If ever there was a time to send this message, the current election may be as good an opportunity as any.

A rise in independent votes, especially to Libertarian candidates, gives the future Ron Pauls of the Republican party a stronger footing. It is time to put that extreme right Christian dog in it’s place.

Otherwise I see a continuing erosion of the Republican party by fundi-mental religi-tards. If that happens, you may as well have a Islamic President.

Christopher / October 26th, 2008, 3:41 pm / #17

Louis,

Good to hear from you.

To bad the Libertarian Party doesn’t have Ron Paul instead of Bob Barr running. I think the Libertarians lost a lot of votes. Still, it is the better alternative compared to the Democratic or Republican offering.

Christopher

Tatiana Prophet / October 26th, 2008, 11:52 pm / #18

Hi, Emilie –

Nice to see you on here.

I looked at the website you provided, and I read up on the issue. I have a few observations:

Facts:

1. A copy of Obama’s birth certificate is displayed at http://www.stopthesmears.com, affiliated with the Obama campaign. That birth certificate is a facsimile of the record, kept on file with the state of Hawaii. This is the same reason that no one with a false social security number is allowed to vote, and is in fact, punished criminally if caught attempting to vote. I have interviewed the secretary of state’s office in the state of Georgia, and there is a federal database that matches all social security numbers by which everyone’s number is checked against when they register to vote. (Finally we can understand the need for a little delay in the processing of our paperwork by any branch of government.)

2. All of the web sites discussing the idea that Obama is not U.S.-born are forums and blog sites of fringe conservative groups. I did not see one article on FOX News about this, which is highly unusual whenever there is evidence to suggest fraud on the part of most rationalists, scientists and politicians who want to find solutions rather than be partisan.

3. A federal judge just threw out Berg’s case on Thursday.

4. If such a serious accusation were true, we’d be talking about fraud on the part of several branches of government, which is highly unlikely given the coordination it requires.

5. If such a serious accusation were true, the McCain campaign would be using it in television ads.

Now here’s my opinion:

A conspiracy theory sometimes just isn’t true, no matter how much you want it to be.

Warm regards,

Tatiana

Christopher / October 27th, 2008, 4:07 pm / #19

I agree with Tatiana. There is no way Obama could get away with this if it was true. The Republicans won’t let the Ayers history go; how would they let this pass? Let’s talk about facts. Cast your vote based on candidate voting record and principles, not bullshit propaganda.

Christopher

I still support the Libertarian Party
Go Bob Barr!

george gerdes / November 3rd, 2008, 2:00 pm / #20

There’s poetry in motion in midst of this commotion.
A literally African-American conceived & born in the newest of these disunited states… who’d a thunk it?

My mind flashes back to the excitement & hopefulness abound back when I was 12 years old & campaigning for JFK in a higher middle class neighborhood that our family had moved to. Doors being slammed in my face. Slanderous put-downs parroted in school by children so suburban & white collared in assumptions.

I’ve pinched myself everyday since the thought germinated after first seeing Barack Obama speak at the 2004 convention. Imagine that! Some things can become true. Cassius Clay can beat Sonny Liston. Or maybe in this case it’s more like Muhammad Ali beating John L. Sullivan.

Tomorrow is Election Day. May the new paradigm flourish.

-George Gerdes

Christopher / November 4th, 2008, 5:41 pm / #21

I’m confused. Do you understand we are electing a president, the man that will lead the United States of America? This is not some social test. We are about to put a man in power that has a very brief voting record. Look for yourself at http://www.votesmart.org

As my senator he has voted present more than any other way. My tax $$$ at work. Now the professional candidate will be president.
The only good I see coming from this is the door to stem cell research being opened wider.

Obama as a social statement I understand, as president I do not.

Christopher

george gerdes / November 4th, 2008, 8:10 pm / #22

Do not be swept up by confusion & disarray, Christopher.
Just watch. For more explanation I refer you to a Christopher by another surname: Christopher Hitchens.
Things’ve changed. It’ll be clearer to you eventually.
The important thing now is the expertise & thoroughness of the Secret Service.

-GG

Tatiana Prophet / November 6th, 2008, 10:04 am / #23

Thank you, George.

Glad you mentioned Hitchens. I watched him support the war with horror, then watched him repudiate his support after he was waterboarded.

Damn it feels good to be a winner!

Tatiana

George Gerdes / November 7th, 2008, 1:25 am / #24

Oh my, yes Tatiana, still feel like I’m in midst of the proverbial “twinkling of an eye,”

I did indeed see the footage of Hitchens getting off the waterboard as soon as he could but haven’t as yet heard him waxing soft on the JIhad martyrs & maniacs. For sure Christopher is an up & at ’em kinduva bloke – an interesting combination of Charles Laughton, Russell Crowe, William F. Buckley & Norman Mailer in one mercurial tumbler of a persona.

Another curious British Obama supporter is Andrew Sullivan, the gay catholic libertarian conservative pundit who also happens to be a hawk approving of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Now however, we find him somewhat in dismay, shaking his head like t.s.elliott lamenting “…no, no that’s not what i meant at all…”

Hopefully the clear vision & thinking of President Obama, as commander-in-chief, will not allow our upcoming Gunga Din-like hunt for Osama Bin Laden to turn into another nightmarish blood bath of no exit.

Cautiously optimistic
(yet poised in what Alan Watts called “The Wisdom of Insecurity”)

George Gerdes

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