Inspired by Obama

Barack Obama

Last week, I was unable to go to bed, captured by the unfolding events of election night in the US. The next morning there seemed to be a feeling of hope and optimism imported from across the Atlantic. There was a new joy in the air.

Something has changed. The cynical have been willing to lay aside their cynicism and dare to hope. This election result felt similar to the 1997 Labour victory, the hope of something new.

It is all too easy to become disillusioned. How can we hold on to this optimism, this hope, in a way that is grounded for us? This election has touched something deep in us that we can preserve however Obama manages or does not manage his job. What is that deep place?

Friend and fellow coach Corrina Gordon-Barnes suggests a way. She writes of how Obama is a new kind of leader, with his “Anything is possible” ideology. She suggests we look around us for other inspirational leaders. And then we need to identify the inspirational leader within ourselves. To recognise “Yes we can” – and then get on and do it.

Corrina challenges in her blog post ‘Your Slice of the World

  1. Make a list of ten people, alive today, who give you hope, who inspire you, who you’re happy to have in charge of their slice of the world, no matter how big or small that piece is. Alongside their name, identify why it matters that they play that role.
  2. Share this with each of them – alert that person to their own significance. They might not know. Also, find a way of supporting them.
  3. Scan the list you made in the first section and notice which values popped up repeatedly. Allow yourself to realise what’s most important/significant for you – this might help you with the next step…
  4. Finally, identify which slice of life you are currently responsible for. How are you doing? What’s next for YOU as a leader in this area? (Hint: It’s probably a step that feels scary)

I found answering the questions a moving experience, connecting me back to what is important for me.

None of my answers are perfect people, all have feet of clay. And actually that makes them more inspiring:

  • Barack Obama – for not taking the easy route, for his grassroots work despite his privileged education and his ability to listen and inspire hope.
  • Florence Terry – for her generosity and willingness to flout convention and consumerism.
  • And Tina Southgate for her determination, boldness, courage and strength in the face of adversity.
  • MP Clare Short for being principled, her strong ethics in connection with international development and her campaign against page 3 for which she received so much ridicule.
  • Jamie Oliver for campaigning within his field for people to eat real food and also championing organic food and cruelty free farming.
  • Birmingham Head of Women’s Aid for her championing of the rights of women suffering domestic violence.
  • Roy Searle – for his work founding the Northumbria Community, a dispersed order of ‘monasticism of the heart’, who seek God through being available to others and vulnerable.
  • And my late grandfather Cyril Leonard for studying for a degree in his thirties, for daring to think that he could change his life and be more and do more. And for never losing his hunger for learning.

ACTION CHALLENGE: Write your own list of 10 people and post them below in the comments field. And follow the steps above to identify the leader that you are.

5 thoughts on “Inspired by Obama

  1. Corrina Gordon-Barnes

    Thanks Rosalyn for your beautiful acknowledgement. Here are my first ten, of many, inspirational people I am grateful for.
    Corrina x

    1) Barack Obama – a genuine, caring man with integrity and soul. Seems genuinely committed to doing the right thing for people and planet.
    2) Caroline Lucas – again, a woman committed to sensible, intelligent, honest evaluation of what our planet needs us to do. The best MP I think this country has.
    3) Laura Howard West -a dedicated pioneer, helping people to live juicy, big, joyful lives.
    4) Charlie – brave and committed enough to overcome obstacles, internal and external, in order to be of service to the women who need her support
    5) Rosanna – already a yoga teacher at age 22, she shows that people can go straight from education in to work they’re passionate about
    6) Ruth Rogers – her Body Gossip project is a one-woman mission to tackle the nation’s views on body image
    7) Sam – an outstanding teacher who sees the teenagers in her care as precious human beings, worthy of her time and energy
    8) Ellen De Generes – the highest profile out-and-proud gay woman, blazing a trail with gentleness and intelligence
    9) Benjamin – who survived and now thrives when there was once only such a tiny glimmer of hope
    10) Catie – who radically uprooted her life and as such was able to give me a most incredible gift

  2. Molly Gordon

    I am blown away to be mentioned, Rosalyn, and inspired by the exercise.

    My 10:

    1. Barack Obama. Ditto.
    2. Nelson Mandela. For first finding peace and reconciliation inside himself.
    3. Michael Bungay Stainier. For being incredibly smart, incredibly funny, and deeply kind.
    4. Maggie Haydock. My sister, the kindest person I know. Her sweetness is 100% pure.
    5. Cynthia Sears. Advocate for the arts and social justice.
    6. Little & Lewis For creating a life and business together – a true work of art.
    7. Margarethe Cammermeyer. For being the change she wants to see.
    8. Pope John XXIII. For actually giving Christianity a try.
    9. My niece, Amy Alice Nilsen, for her amazing mothering and her courage and fortitude while her husband is in Iraq.
    10. Unsung poets and artists and all the little people who make beauty whether or not they get the limelight.

  3. Michael

    Molly – I’m humbled by the mention. Here are 10 for me in no particular order…
    1. Sabrina Hasham, who’s fierce and funny
    2. Ric Leahy, who rings sound and true
    3. Don Cudmore who is as nice a person as there is on the planet
    4. Marc and Craig Keilberger of Me to We, who are inspiring youth to step up to be ‘the generation we’ve been waiting for’
    5. Mayor David Miller, who fights for the right things for Toronto
    6. Peter Jackson, who somehow made the Lord of the Rings movies work
    7. Suzie Addison-Toor, who founded Addus for developmentally challenged adults to better integrate into their communities
    8. Gus and Jane, who are doing such a great job at be the parents of Harper, Seamus and Hendrix.
    9. My Dad, who stands for integrity
    10. People who talk to street people

  4. Tina Southgate

    So wow, what a wonderful exercise in truly looking at both ‘who’ and ‘what’ you admire. Having a moment to stop and appreciate the people that matter most is precious and something I do not do often enough.

    Something I realised for me is that I can only put down people I have actually had a relationship with. Famous presidents, leaders or people who have achieved things don’t offer me nearly as much inspiration and hope as real people that I have walked, talked and related to. I guess it is my need to truly experience something to be inspired.

    1. My late Dad – for teaching me about unconditional love and modelling the art of bringing together contentment and simplicity without losing passion
    2. Sandra – for showing me and inspiring me as to how having family values and caring for people can be both sexy and mature
    3. Jesus – an obvious one really, whatever you believe or whoever you believe in, he was an out and out radical in his day and effects the world and me everyday
    4. Amanda – for showing me what true friendship looks like
    5. Andrew Watson – for restoring my belief and trust in church leaders
    6. Richard Mill – for believing in me, standing strong and teaching me where to always find the calm in a storm
    7. Leigh – for showing me that real life heroes do exist, and there are incredibly brave yet gentle men out there
    8. Caroline – for taking the time to ‘shine the light’, and show me the way out of a very dark hole
    9. Antje – for being who she is and shining so much encouragement and love out consistently, inspiring me to be more like that
    10. Rob – for challenging me, stretching me, helping me recapture and expand my vision, and releasing me to be me, whilst being able to feel I’m not the only ‘different’ one out there!

  5. Irena

    Hi Rosalyn, this might prove a bit difficult but I’ll give it a try.
    1. My Mum – for loving not just her family but other people in the community and working for them
    2. Vaclav Havel – the Czech ex-president and playwright / for having the courage to speak up
    3. Dagmar Havlova – his wife/ for having the guts to whistle in front of the whole parliament when her husband was slandered
    4. Catherine – a friend/ for going into a career in paliative care
    5. Uncle Geoff – to be and live the way he wants no matter what anyone thinks (and actually making a difference)
    6. My art therapist Emilie Rudolfova/ for being ever so compassionate and yet hard if needed in order to help
    7. My friend Radka / who got out of depression and started a brand new healed life
    8. My cousin Eva / who was brave enough to say what it was she loves in life and follow her heart
    9. My colleague Lenka/ for being brave enough to stand up against our boss and bear the consequences
    10. The little 5 year old girl who thought she was going to die when giving blood to save her brother.

    I suppose the overriding theme in mine is courage, guts, bravery.

    What does that say? Yes, I am scared stiff of making the next step, which is having the guts to leave my job and follow my heart calling.


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