Lessons from President Obama

Lessons from President Obama

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss lessons of success from US President Barrack Obama’s Inaugural address and its link and references to today’s narcissism.

First a quick update:

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Read the article I wrote for date.com and matchmaker.com here, and also read “What women look for in a man”.

Now, let’s talk about lessons of success from US President Obama’s speech.

Probably the most famous words of any US President were uttered by John F. Kennedy during his Inaugural address on January 20, 1961:

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

In the 21st century, the Inaugural address by US President Barrack Obama echoed those words and highlighted the need for a call to values, principles and service to others. What most political pundits, commentators and experts missed was the real message Obama gave.

Let me explain.

Recently, I was graciously approached by friend and colleague Professor Jean Twenge (Associate Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University) to review her upcoming book “The Narcissism Epidemic – living in the age of entitlement.” In her new book, Professor Jean Twenge identifies the signs of narcissism, root causes, effects and solutions. Professor Twenge  even compares narcissism to the seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. From a psychological and behavioral perspective, narcissism is about arrogance, selfishness, lack of empathy or compassion, greed, vanity, inability to have meaningful relationship with others, extreme reaction to criticism, entitlement, and the need for constant attention and adulation.

President Obama’s speech spoke directly to this problem or epidemic in our society today.

And although he never used the term “narcissism” nor did he mention epidemic, I believe he responded to every negative attribute of narcissism and its horrific impact:

“Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.”

In what can best be described as the anti-thesis of entitlement, President Obama said:  “greatness is never a given. It must be earned.”

In many ways, just as Professor Jean Twenge did with her first book “Generation me” , President Obama too, was speaking to the young people, to today’s generation who have become hypnotized by everything plastic and empty “those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.” Obama now appealed to them to seek the greater good of humankind, reminding all of us that our foundations were built by the doers -people who took risks and took action.

In almost every paragraph of his speech, President Obama identified the problem or negative characteristic of narcissism and offered the antidote, making repeated calls to action and hard work, laying out all the values that he feels necessary to heal the wounds and woes of today.

Humbly, I believe his message is for all of us, for a return to values; a call to stop and evaluate the way we choose to live, mindful of its consequences.

I feel that the values President Obama identified are universal values, principles we can all choose to live by. For example, he spoke of equality and caring for others: “our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart – not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

He spoke of justice, ideals, integrity and “the rights of man”:

“we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals… to assure the rule of law and the rights of man”

He spoke of humility and restraint, accountability and responsibility:

“power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please”

He spoke of compassion and kindness for our fellow humans:

“we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect.”

President Obama was extremely open in cautioning us about the values he believes many have laid aside:

“hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism”

Famous actor, comedian and author, Bill Cosby, has spoken out about the parenting problem, even testifying at legislative hearings for the special Task Force on Fatherhood and Fatherlessness. While Bill Cosby’s approach has not always been well received, President Obama carried the torch of the significance of strong parenting:

“…but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.”

Perhaps President Obama’s speech is best summed up when he honored those in the armed services who are serving abroad to protect and “guard our liberty”:

“they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves.”

Some commentators were disappointed by President Obama’s speech because they could not find the one quote that could be repeated throughout history such as that given by President John F. Kennedy. But a leader does not set out to be quoted. Rather it is his duty to lead and inspire by example and to remind us of our ideals, goals and direction for the future. In that sense, President Obama succeeded because he indirectly took the famous words of President Kennedy as a foundation, (“ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country”), elaborated on them by explaining clearly the consequences of our failure to embrace those words, and he offered the solution – a return to the single most important core value of all – service to others. For, I sincerely believe, that only when we add value to other people’s lives, make a difference and focus on contributing to others, can we feel a real sense of satisfaction and fulfillment, in a way that nothing outside of us ever could. Thus, real success is not measured by our accumulation but rather by our service top others  – and this is the antithesis of narcissism.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & Clinical Hypnotherapist

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