“The first step is faith. You don’t have to see
the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
Martin Luther King, Jr
“If you’re walking down the right path and
you’re willing to keep walking, eventually
you’ll make progress.”
Sasha Obama hugged her dad after he took the Presidential Oath of Office yesterday. “Good job, Dad,” she said. “I did it,” her father responded.
Then today, President Obama stood before hundreds of thousands. He spoke to them and, as ever, to the whole of the American citizenry and to everyone else from around the globe who may have tuned in to listen. This man’s words on this day carry inescapable weight and import. That really goes without saying. Yesterday’s brief exchange between father and daughter is also important as a reflection for all of us.
Here, four years later, changes have happened — cascading in most instances, inching along in others. Some we’ve liked others we haven’t. And while it is way too easy to complain about perfections or even moderately acceptable conditions yet to be reached, this president and this country have done ok. Sasha’s interaction with her father took no effort. It was simply a natural expression of love. At the very same time, Sasha’s words were a gesture entirely in keeping with our signature American optimism. We tend to hold a good thought, to hope for the best, to offer encouragement. ”Good job” and let’s keep getting better at the business of living together on this planet.
Four years ago today, the word Change still echoed across the land as I loaded my little car and set out to find out what everyday Americans meant by that word.
Among the things I heard was American optimism. I also heard people wrestling with the fact of change as inevitable.
Even people who claim to thrive on change, like my friend Lauren whose career focus is nurse midwifery, balk in discomfort with some changes. In the life of Lauren (voice … in 100 Voices – Americans Talk about Change – listen to her here!) seemingly capricious shifts in entrance requirements for graduate school are changes that have pushed her way too close to giving up. But she doesn’t. And thank goodness, since countless women, babies and families stand to benefit from her expertise, artistry and calming presence.
And that thriving-on-change thing – it seems fair to note that really ALL of us thrive on change. After all, fundamental changes like night and day, in-breath and out-breath, the movement of this moment to this moment to this moment are absolutely essential to being and staying alive in the first place.
So, Change Is. And it has not slowed one bit since the day four years ago when President Obama was inaugurated for his first term – the same day I got on the road to ask what regular citizens meant when they said the word change.
In the past few days alone, I’ve had the chance to spend time with a former U.S. Undersecretary of Interior, a biosphere scientist, a Native American Tribal Leader, a family practice doctor and a nationally recognized social psychologist. In every conversation the trouble with change has been a major feature – and not the fact or even the content of change, but the limitations individuals and organizations have engaging change. “Change isn’t the problem,” said the psychologist, “the problem is brain freeze in the face of what is really always an opportunity for creativity, for collaboration, for innovation.” The former Undersecretary simply said, “All the words and intentions are great, but they just don’t matter without action.”
Here we are right now in another Inaugural moment and right in the juicy middle of all sorts of changes public and private. The list of challenges facing our nation is vast. Obama’s second inauguration as President of the United States signifies crossing the threshold into the next first 100 days – a tradition since FDR’s days for marking and assessing action at the beginning of a new presidential term.
With us this time around are 100 voices of Americans thinking and speaking about changed during the first 100 days that began four years ago.
Since we’re all in “on-the-job training” for how to live well with change, I hope you’ll check out the wisdom in these voices as conveyed by the oh-so-cool series of 10 pod casts (plus an upcoming and completely inspiring epilogue). Producer, Alex Ward and the fine folk of Pagatim along with a generous anonymous donor have made these audio versions possible. I offer them here for your enjoyment and, more specifically, I offer them to all of us as powerful sources for change-coaching.
Four years later, our first U.S. President of African descent enters his second term on the day designated for honoring the life and voice of Dr. Martin Luther King. In this auspicious time, see what you hear in these voices of American change.
And as ever, thanks for listening