Americans Want Salesmanship Instead Of Leadership From Obama

If you look up "Obama Accomplishments" on Google right now, you will see my blog, Brown Man Thinking Hard, pop up on the first page of results. This is normally the kind of topic that would have Newsweek, Time, Vanity Fair, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Ebony magazine, Black Enterprise, or even the black political blogs like Jack and Jill Politics that have much larger audiences than my little one man band at the top of the list.

Nobody out here is consistently touting the president’s accomplishments.

The $20 billion dollar settlement with BP alone should be worth six months of goodwill, because it’s the largest amount of cash the country has ever seen, and is ever likely to see be disgorged from a public corporation and paid directly to the American people as a result of said company's negligence. It is a stupendous achievement, and yet the president’s political advisors got a world class 24/7 shellacking by both friend and foe for demanding the payment. They were hit with so many negative shots from so many quarters, you might have been convinced, if you didn't know any better, that the Obama administration should have told BP to take its money back.

Every personal injury lawyer in the country knows how to advertise his expertise. How to crow from the rooftops when they settle a big case. There are no long, windy explanations of legal rigmarole. No arcane flowcharts that try to explain what type of legal strategy went into settling a case. They show people with checks in their hands. Working people with smiles on their faces who have money they didn't have before.

How hard is that? How hard is it to get two or three two man crews to identify people in the Gulf who have already gotten financial assistance from BP and interview them on camera while they are standing in front of their car they can still put gas in or their house they can still make the payments on or their kids they can still feed until they get their lives back in order? How hard is it to edit all of the hours of footage into one of those heartugging montages we are so fond of oohing and ahhing over?

How hard is that?

Does anyone in the White House understand just how crucial video images are of the intimate ways in which their accomplishments have helped individual Americans, in an age when many people get practically all of their news from video?

The decision to bailout the auto industry was just as momentous, with the fate of 4000 Tier 1 suppliers and the hundreds of thousands of jobs for people in their workforce in the balance, in a region of the country that should now be in some kind of economic ICU. Now that these companies are beginning to see some daylight, nobody wants to remember that this industry was within a few weeks of running out of cash, as if the CEO’s simply waved magic wands instead of receiving much needed federal funds to keep their doors open when NO OTHER FINANCIAL ENTITY WOULD LOAN THEM A DIME.

How hard is it to do a copycat ad that plays on imagery of the well known Verizon coverage map campaign to tout your accomplishments? How hard is it to show a couple of guys in Michigan who wave to each other from their driveways with their lunchboxes in their hands after a long day's work, an ad that then shows the familiar cellphone coverage map overlay, except it is a map of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio, a map onto which is projected, in red stick figures, the number of jobs tied to the auto industry and its suppliers that were saved by the auto bailout.

How hard is that?

This is America. We believe everything we see, and nothing we read, because most of us don't read a damn thing longer than a paragraph or two, with Twitter steadily decreasing even that dismal average. And we tend to confuse salesmanship with leadership, but an effective sales pitch, which the Obama Administration is sorely lacking, gets the American public's blood pumping every time.

I don’t think Obama’s people really understood going in how pervasive the army of Negative Nancy’s was going to be. How little support from their own Democratic party members they were going to get. The president’s inner circle is pretty smart, but I still don’t think they have been able to completely wrap their minds around the difficulty of the “running the country while black” kind of profiling Barack Obama was going to have to endure.

I don’t think they understood how much like CSI the presidency was going to become, with the traditional media playing the role of the investigators, examining even the most minute event down to its DNA. I mean, when you have seasoned journalists printing stories that question the president’s travel arrangement across town, like they did last week when POLITICO ran the headline “Obama Takes Helicopter for 6 Mile Trip”, even though they know, as they have known for years, that the president, his staff, or his handlers have no say so in these kinds of decisionsthat the Secret Service makes the call in these areas—how can we expect any more than that from the general public, who don’t sit around thinking about what the does president all day?

What is the reality?

For all the manufactured hysteria that the regular media indulges in daily, and the right wing's wacko section depend on as if it is a life giving substance, there really isn't all that much difference between this president and past presidents. Obama's most recent approval ratings, which are in the low forty percent range, closely mirror those of Ronald Reagan at this point in his presidency.

America has survived periods of double digit interest rates and unemployment rates before. We have even been known, on occasion, to take a break from blowing up other people's countries long enough to let our rifle barrels cool off. And history may show us that some of the Obama Administration's accomplishments turn out to be great ones.

Until then, though, the White House needs to blow its own horn a lot louder, and a lot more often, because the accomplishments of this administration are not going to sell themselves.

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As you vote, keep in mind that we are looking for a winner with the most engaging social venture pitch - an idea you would want to invest in.

Lumina Foundation and Big Think have partnered to bring this entrepreneurial competition to life, and we hope you'll participate! We have narrowed down the competition to four finalists and will be announcing an audience's choice award and a judges' choice award in May.

The creator of the winning video — chosen by Big Think's audience, the Lumina Foundation, and an independent panel of experts (bios below) — will be flown to New York for a taping in the Big Think studio as a way to further promote their vision for a new, disruptive idea in post-secondary education.

Thank you to all of the contestants who spent time submitting applications, and best of luck to our final four competitors.

Finalist: Greater Commons - Todd McLeod

Greater Commons, founded by Todd McLeod and Andrew Cull, is an organization that helps people live happier, more successful and fulfilling lives through agile learning. The current education system is inefficient and exclusionary, in which many students who end up earning a degree, if at all, enter a career not related to their field of study. Greater Commons solves this problem and gap in post-high school secondary education in a variety of ways. Passionately and diligently, Great Commons helps others obtain skills, knowledge, wisdom, motivation, and inspiration so that they may live better lives.

Finalist: PeerFoward - Keith Frome

PeerForward is an organization dedicated to increasing the education and career success rates of students in low-income schools and communities by mobilizing the power of positive peer influence. PeerForward works with partner schools to select influential students as a part of a team, systemizing the "peer effect." Research in the fields of sociology of schools, social-emotional learning, adult-youth partnerships, and civic education demonstrates that students can have a positive effect on the academic outcomes of their peers. PeerForward is unique through its systemic solutions to post-secondary education.

Finalist: Cogniss - Leon Young

Cogniss combines technology and best practice knowledge to enable anyone to innovate and share solutions that advance lifelong learning. Cogniss is the only platform to integrate neuroscience, through which it solves the problem of access by providing a low-code platform that enables both developers and non-developers to build sophisticated education apps fast, and at a much lower cost. It addresses the uneven quality of edtech solutions by embedding research-based learning design into its software. App creators can choose from a rich set of artificial intelligence, game, social and data analytics, and gamification to build their perfect customized solution.

Finalist: Practera - Nikki James

Practera's mission is to create a world where everyone can learn through experience. Today's workplaces are increasingly dynamic and diverse, however, costly and time-consuming experiential learning is not always able to offer the right opportunities at scale. Many students graduate without developing the essential skills for their chosen career. Practera's team of educators and technologists see this problem as an opportunity to transform the educational experience landscape, through a CPL pedagogical framework and opportunities to apply students' strengths through active feedback.

Thank you to our judges!

Our expert judges are Lorna Davis, Dan Rosensweig, and Stuart Yasgur.

Lorna Davis is the Senior Advisor to Danone CEO and is a Global Ambassador for the B Corp movement. Lorna has now joined B-Lab, the non-for-profit that supports the B Corporation movement on an assignment to support the journey of large multi nationals on the path to using business as a force of good.

Dan Rosensweig joined Chegg in 2010 with a vision for transforming the popular textbook rental service into a leading provider of digital learning services for high school and college students. As Chairman and CEO of Chegg, Dan commits the company to fulfilling its mission of putting students first and helping them save time, save money and get smarter.

Stuart Yasgur leads Ashoka's Social Financial Services globally. At Ashoka, Stuart works with others to initiate efforts that have mobilized more than $500 million in funding for social entrepreneurs, engaged the G20 through the Toronto, Seoul and Los Cabos summits and helped form partnerships with leading financial institutions and corporations.

Again, thank you to our incredible expert judges.

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