Reading Leadership

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

Prior to the second debate between President-elect Barack Obama and John McCain, I sent a tweet to Obama saying “go get him. Don’t stand for cheap shots.”

Now, I’m ashamed of that message. Coolness, measuredness, and calm, intellectual determination was the better way. These past eight years have whittled at my nerves. Professionalism derided, the persistence of anachronistic folly, a cretinous pride in ignorance, derision of international partners and collaborators, and an odd savagery raking at constitutional ontology, as Luckovich illustrates.

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After my initial elation and disbelief at Barack Obama’s election, I’ve now slowed down to thoughtfulness, thinking of family, friends, colleagues, about change and the future. Bilal visited class yesterday and took my World Literature students through the history, contexts, and significant influences of the Koran. He’s a soft-spoken expert, and the students want him to return on Monday to continue the discussion, perhaps exploring different interpretations of certain sura. He persists in a large conversation over the public perception of Islam and the elegance of its ideas. In class we talked about the relations between Islam and T’ang poetry and we learned a lot about how people can elevate or destroy because of ignorance. I made the point that this is why we dig and dig into the poetry, not necessarily to know, but to engage and connect, not to punish but to come away humbled by openness.

The last eight years have not been about being humble.

…Ashamed though I am of my high position
While people lead unhappy lives,
Let us reasonably banish care
And just be friends, enjoying nature.
Though we have to go without fish and meat,
There are fruits and vegetables aplenty.
…We bow, we take our cups of wine,
We give our attention to beautiful poems.
When the mind is exalted, the body is lightened
And feels as if it could float in the wind.


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