Once in a while politicians break through the noose that keep them on message and speak in a way that transcends the daily grind to hit fundamental truths. Senator Barack Obama did so yesterday, and in doing so, seized the moment. Regardless of your political persuasions, it’s hard not to be touched at some level with his vision, leadership and unflinching look at the problems of racism in America.
Obviously, there is a very long, steep step from personal branding to a politician’s speech about racism. And, yet, as personal branders, we can learn a lot from how Senator Obama seized the moment and reframed the issues moving from racial stereotypes to a broader, more nuanced understanding.
But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
As personal branders, it’s easy to remain rooted in a narrow vision of who we are and how we work. The daily rat-a-tat-tat of work and personal demands can leave us little room to look up and around us. And, yet, if we truly want to excel at what we do we need to leave a little room around us to think big and boldly. We need to be prepared to reevaluate what we do and how we do it and, if necessary, fine-tune our messages and sharpen and expand our skills.
Obama in his speech talks about the need to change and move beyond the racial stereotypes of both whites and blacks. In doing so he challenges us to change the dynamic that leaves so many behind in crumbling schools and overcrowded emergency rooms.
While most of have our sights set on a much narrow field of vision, we can nevertheless, think a little bigger. We can reach out in our work to people we don’t ordinarily reach out to. We can see that the same way of doing things isn’t always the best way. We can embrace people who are different from us. None of this is going to solve the country’s problems. But it can be our own small way of emboldening ourselves in our workaday lives and insuring that each step we take is a little firmer and stronger. This may make us better personal branders, and, I trust, better human beings.
What do you think?
Wendy Marx, Personal Branding and Public Relations