THE BLOG
11/25/2014 11:09 am ET Updated Jan 25, 2015

What President Obama's Immigration Reform Speech Says About Us

(Note: I have no political or religious affiliation to the citations in this article. I am writing this as an independent observer and concerned global citizen. You can watch President Obama's 15-minute speech here.)

President Obama's immigration reform speech on Thursday November 20th 2014 was (in the grand scheme of things) a small move from the White House, and it could be a giant leap for how we respond as business decision makers and civic-minded members of society.

Whether we choose to make that giant leap depends on whether we participate in the conversation. Here are 5 questions worth reflecting on:

1. Do we even care?

It concerned me that, when I did a quick search on LinkedIn today using the keywords 'Obama' and 'immigration', only 87 posts popped up for the past week. Compare this to a search for 'big data' over the same time period, where I retrieved 1036 articles.

I realize and fully appreciate that LinkedIn is not a mainstream forum for politically-related articles. After all, it serves a professional audience looking to connect over business news and job opportunities. I would argue, though, that political decisions affect our businesses and jobs in a very real way. Those of us who took strategic management classes in university will remember the importance of doing a PEST analysis (political, economic, social and technological analysis) when considering a business move. I believe an announcement that could affect the status of our foreign-born employees warrants at least some of our attention.

2. Did we have access to the speech?

Now, if you've read the article up to this point and are saying to yourself, 'what immigration reform speech are you talking about?', I'm not surprised.

For one thing, this article states that the four major American television broadcast networks had not planned to cover the President's Thursday night address. If my DVR hadn't already been tuned to CNN (a network that did televise it), I would have missed President Obama's speech altogether.

I cannot speak for or guess why the major television networks didn't televise his speech, and I for one do not intend for this discussion to veer into the political territory of who pulls the strings at the networks. I'm simply noticing that, no matter where we might stand on the issue of immigration reform, everyone (including the President) has a right to be heard by the people they serve. In some ways, this feels like the equivalent of a CEO wanting to address his international employees and being told that the company's live streaming platform manager had decided not to broadcast the CEO's message.

3. Are we kicking our sense of reason to the curb?

As for the people who did watch President Obama's speech last night, there's been the expected response from Republican party members who are now threatening to challenge the President's right to exert his powers in such a single-handed way. Threats of impeachment are now beginning to surface, though as this article from a group of law professors reveals, the President's actions followed the letter of the law and therefore cannot be legally challenged. These same law professors did also stress that they were commenting on the legality of President Obama's actions, and not on whether his actions reflected good or bad policy.

Which brings me to my next question...

4. Are we all missing out on a larger opportunity to influence that policy?

In a democratic country like the USA where there are three branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial) to provide checks and balances, the system allows every citizen to voice their opinions through who they elect into political office.

Americans are frustrated that Congress (part of the legislative branch) has been ineffective for years. But it does take two hands to clap, and this article suggests that Americans' growing civic ignorance is part of the problem too. In the article, retired U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice David H. Souter was quoted as saying:

Less than a third of adult Americans in the United States understand that the basic constitutional structure of American government is one of power divided into three branches that they can name...Two-thirds of the country doesn't have a clue about that.

Political apathy or, worse yet, political dictatorships exist in many countries in the world. When America, a country that globally champions the ideals of democracy and freedom, starts to develop political apathy of this magnitude, it compromises its ability to inspire other countries on the world stage, or to attract foreign business investment to its shores.

As cliched as it may sound, it does go back to exercising the power of your vote, and your right to question the people who represent you in government. Make your voice count -- it's your way to show leadership, whether you're electing your local mayor or your next President.

And finally...

5. Can we put people before politics?

In my opinion, I believe that President Obama laid out some very sensible solutions in his speech. Through law enforcement, he'll deport illegal immigrants engaged in criminal activity, but he's found a temporary way not to separate hardworking (albeit illegal) immigrants from their American-born children. Emotionally, he sought to engage the hearts of Americans whose forefathers are themselves immigrants. Spiritually, he reminded us of the morality of 'welcoming the stranger'. This Christian leader for example, was grateful that the President had chosen to take this executive action in the spirit of scripture.

We all have the opportunity to make our voices count, and to remind each other of the larger universal laws that govern our humanity; laws of peace, love and freedom.

And it begins with a willingness to join the conversation.

It just so happens that today, I'm joining the conversation by announcing my very own executive leadership podcast.

So I leave you with this simple & quick invitation to join the conversation too. Just spend 5 minutes answering my 2-question survey on your biggest leadership heroes and challenges. Let's build new & shared possibilities together.