November 8, 2008

America is ready for a revolution...

As my plane landed in New York at ~5:00AM today after a red-eye flight back from San Francisco, I opened my eyes and looked through the window. It suddenly sank through what this nation, and the world, had witnessed this week. The Unites States of America had overwhelming elected a black man named Barack Hussein Obama as its next president. I was indeed looking at the dawn of a new era.

On Tuesday night, while packing for my next day's early morning flight to San Francisco, I was twittering away as poll results started trending decisively towards Obama by 9:30PM. I went to bed after my last twitter at 11:03PM - Obama wins! Take a moment to reflect - history is made today!! It was however me who did not get a chance to reflect amidst the last three days of meetings and the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. Until this morning.

Senator Obama's landslide victory is historic and a source of much needed hope on several counts, but I'll let the press and political historians ponder through that. Many feel that the most significant outcome of the Obama Presidency will be the final end of America's Civil Rights movement. I'm not so sure about that. I think Obama's victory is mostly a symbolic proof of the change on the race front that has already been happening in the U.S. for the past several decades. Today, for most part, race is a non-issue for the majority of Americans. The three main reasons why I supported Obama did not include race. Tom Friedman argued the same in his Op-Ed column in The New York Times after the victory. He wrote:
"But my gut tells me that of all the changes that will be ushered in by an Obama presidency, breaking with our racial past may turn out to be the least of them."
My biggest fear now is the loss of the momentum after Obama's victory. The momentum amongst millions of citizens who came out to vote for the first time, hoping for a change, and willing to devote their time, energy, and even careers. The work has just started. That is probably the reason why I thought President-elect Obama was so somber in his victory address Tuesday night at the Grant Park in Chicago (below is the video). While almost quarter of a million Americans cheered and celebrated (some in tears), there were hardly any triumphant or festive signs in Obama's tone or gestures as he delivered an inspiring speech. He apparently canceled the fireworks planned at the Park. The weight of all the expectations and the responsibilities ahead probably robbed Obama of even a brief moment of public celebration with his supporters after a historic victory.

I think this country is ready for a revolution - led by young and old who hope for a change, and want to live a purpose-driven life. The crumbling of the rampant greed-driven, unfettered free market-spurred, investment banking industry (more on that later) is watched by young Americans who are getting ready to make their career choices. A message of hope, inspired by a young leader, is reverberating through the air at the same time. Several long-impacting, critical issues loom in front of them (environment, energy, economy, terrorism, etc.). I think a perfect storm is brewing...the groundwork is done, and the recipe for change is there. Time has come to lay out the mission.

I heard Al Gore speak last evening at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. He provided an interesting factoid. When President John F. Kennedy presented a bold challenge to the American people forty seven years ago - America should, within that decade, land a man on the moon and return him safely home - many derided the dream as lunacy. Eight years later when Neil Armstrong stepped on the surface of the moon, the team that cheered the achievement at the Houston mission control center had an average age of 26 years. Many of those engineers were less than 18 years old when JFK inspired them to "dream" the moon mission in 1961. That's what leaders do.

President-elect Obama, who has often been compared to JFK, needs to now lay out the mission for his eager "troops," who are thirsty to make a difference.

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