Reconsidering Moral Leadership

In early 2007 I was asked to write a series of blog posts for a youth conservation organization examining the intersection of service, civil rights, and the environment for Martin Luther King Day. In one of those posts I mused about MLK’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the 1963 March on Washington. Actually, I mused on the way that MLK was introduced to the crowd gathered there on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The person who introduced King called him the moral leader of our nation.

When I was writing in early 2007 I commented on how striking this phrase was, because I couldn’t imagine any one person today being called the moral leader of our country. Moral leadership, at least on the national political stage, was all but absent. However, that same week a Senator from Chicago stood on the steps of Illinois’ Old State Capital (where Abraham Lincoln had stood before him) and announced he was running for president of the United States. At the time I didn’t know much about Barack Obama, but now, twenty months later we have all learned volumes about who he is and what he stands for, and I am beginning to hope that moral leadership may be on the rise again. Continue reading


Change Begins With Us

After the initial euphoria of Barack Obama’s big win began to die down, after all the polls were discussed and the results were analyzed, the pundits all seemed to speak with one unified voice for a moment. Their message was simply “Now the hard work of governing begins,” as if equating the last 20 months of campaigning to nothing more than a beauty contest that had nothing to do with the work of governing. Perhaps this was the media’s response because the media had spent so much time covering the election as if it were a beauty pageant, not a vital national dialogue.

Regardless, as the media spotlight shifted away from horse-race politics and campaign gossip and began exploring what an Obama administration means for the future of America, a new narrative emerged. In the two weeks since the election the media – both mainstream and bloggers – have been captivated by Obama’s every move. News photographers follow him like paparazzi as he drops his daughters off at school, correspondents trace politicians’ flights in and out of Chicago and speculate on their possible roles in his administration, pundits analyze his every word and choice as if by tracking every move he makes we will begin to understand what our future looks like. Continue reading