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Russell Bishop

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A Chance To Govern From The Heart

Posted: 11/05/08 09:14 AM ET

Last night we witnessed a graciousness that belies the apparent animus that oozed through much of the last several weeks of the campaign.

Last night, John McCain evidenced a grace and essence in his concession speech that helped me considerably. As much as I have disagreed with the Republican campaign rhetoric, I have tried my best to look past the unseemly smears and expressions of anger to see the person, the human being that lies more deeply within.

My sense is that had Senator McCain campaigned with the same grace and elegance as he evidenced in his concession speech, he just might have won.

As I wrote earlier this week in Election Anxiety articles about Lincoln and what to do if the other side wins, I hold to the notion that both Barack Obama and John McCain care, and care deeply. They certainly disagree about how to demonstrate and act on their caring, but care they do.

The anger that often flares around John McCain is something I recognize inside of me. It comes out most frequently when I care deeply about something and feel frustrated and ineffective in my ability to communicate that caring.

Barack Obama cares and cares deeply as well. One of his great blessings is the ability to stay in touch with his caring and to communicate from that place of caring, even at those times when he, too, must be feeling frustrated, even angry.

As an educational psychologist by training, I recognize the difference between denial or suppression of deeply held feelings, and the channeling of that deeply held feeling into positive resourcefulness. Throughout the campaign, I witnessed times when Barack Obama found himself tested, angry, and otherwise mistreated. However, I also witnessed him channel those tests and discomforting feelings into a resourcefulness that allowed his caring to be communicated even more profoundly.

Like John McCain, Barack Obama demonstrated graciousness and a profound elegance in his election night speech. In particular, he evidenced a confidence unencumbered by hubris, an ability to assess the challenges that lie ahead, a conviction in his and our ability to address those challenges, and a willingness to embrace his opponents in discovering solutions to the challenges we face.

After Barack Obama gave his speech, the CNN panel tossed around ideas about how the President-Elect might lead going forward. As suggestions were made that he might govern from the left, or perhaps claim Reagan era centrist turf, David Gergen reminded everyone that Obama's victory was not one of simply left or liberal proportions; rather, Barack Obama claimed vast numbers of voters from all across the nation, and from just about every demographic subset CNN could find to post on the wall.

As the govern-from-the-left vs. govern-from-the-right debate ensued, my wife offered a profound insight: Barack Obama has the opportunity to govern from the heart.

That struck me in a very resonant chord. What is it about Barack Obama that has penetrated so many different people from so many different walks of life? Sure, he has some brilliant campaign strategists and ran an amazing campaign over the past 20 months. However, there have been brilliant strategists and effective campaigns in the past. This one seems different.

The difference to me is that President-Elect Barack Obama cares, is willing to share that he cares, and has the amazing ability to connect his heart to his considerable intellect. By connecting heartfelt concern to reasoned problem solving, he represents an opportunity to bring about the change that was the theme of his campaign.

Beyond a mere campaign slogan, my sense is that this man cares enough and knows enough to realize that he must stay focused on the outcome, while be willing to adapt to the inevitable changes that will arise. He signaled clearly that solving the problems before us and creating real change will require far more than he can accomplish alone, and far more than can be accomplished in his first 100 days.

Perhaps his first 100 days will be characterized by the bridging of differences, connecting heartfelt concerns with practical realities. Perhaps we will focus on building like-minded communities of people willing to lead from the heart while slogging through difficult times of rebuilding our broken economic, social and political systems. Perhaps the common tie that will bind people of different backgrounds and disparate points of view about the way forward, will be a common bond of caring, commitment, and compassion.

Surely the nation could use greater caring and compassion. We already know that the President-Elect has the commitment to go with his caring and compassion.

The real question will not be what he can or will do as President, but what we and and will do as individuals. Are we willing to demonstrate the graciousness that both Senator McCain and President-Elect Obama showed us last night? Are we willing to take up the challenge to repair and rebuild with our own combination of caring, commitment and compassion.

Yes We Can.

 
 
 

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