Saturday, May 21, 2011

Michelle Obama talks about "the long game"

If there's been a theme to my blogging about President Obama, its that he embraces the the long game guided by a North Star. My favorite allegory for this administration is the story of the Tortoise and the Hare.

And now First Lady Michelle Obama reinforces that.

Here's the thing about my husband: even in the toughest moments, when it seems like all is lost, Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal. He never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise, even if it comes from some of his best supporters. He just keeps moving forward.

And in those moments when we're all sweating it, when we're worried that the bill won't pass or the negotiation will fall through, Barack always reminds me that we're playing a long game here. He reminds me that change is slow — it doesn't happen overnight.

If we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight and doing what we know is right, then eventually we will get there.

We always have.

There's so much wisdom in those few words, isn't there?

First of all, you have to be grounded in your goal - your North Star. Without that, the chatter and noise will get to you because its such a powerful call-out to grab your attention. Pretty soon you're zigging here and zagging there. And its very easy to lose site of your North Star with some pretty shinny object that appears on the scene.

In my work as the director of a small non-profit, I find myself regularly presented with crises to tackle or opportunities to pursue. Its the mission statement of the organization that grounds me at those times.

In the case of the tortoise - he might have been slow - but he always knew where the finish line was and never veered from putting one foot in front of the other to get there.

I think that our fast-paced culture has caused us to lose site of the fact that real change is slow - especially when you're talking about a representative democracy of 300 million people. Quick change is often not sustainable. But more importantly, anyone who has read The Audacity of Hope recognizes that Obama is very well aware of the backlash that erupts after quick change. In the long run, it can do more damage to your efforts to substantially reach the finish line.

While dazzling promises can win over a lot of people during an election campaign, the mark of a truly historical leader is to not make the ones you don't feel confident you can keep. This is what instils the kind of confidence many of us are developing in President Obama.

Has your confidence ever been shaken by someone who talks big but doesn't follow through in the long run? Mine has. But as Obama's presidency continues, I'm finding that more and more I'm prepared to dismiss the fears and distractions and move forward in the confidence that we have a leader who knows where he's going and is prepared to slowly but surely do what it takes to get to the finish line.


  1. Thanks so much for this reminder! I first heard about "the long game" from Andrew Sullivan. Now I find that, exactly as you said, if I pay attention to the President and trust him and not go with the shiny objects I will calm down. So this is what 11-level chess looks like! WoW!

  2. Smilingl8dy,

    When you talk about "calming down," it reminds me that this is the opposite of what the Tea Partiers and professional left are trying to do. They think that change requires outrage rather than long-term sustained commitment. In that sense, they're betting on the hare.

  3. You are rollin' this mornin', Ms. Pants.

    Amen and amen to your words.

    In all things.

  4. Coming out of lurksville just to tell you how very much I am enjoying your blog, Ms Pants! It's one of my few daily reads now: your voice is grounded and wise. You've come a long way, baby, and you've only just begun!

  5. Still me here (scribe), trying to figure out how to sign in without using livejournal

  6. Great to see you scribe.

    I hope you figure it out. I'd love to hear from you now and then.


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