For all of the pomp and circumstance of Barack Obama’s historic 2008 election, the man himself endured an unbelievably challenging two years leading up to the huge event.
In his new memoir, A Promised Land, the 44th U.S. president details a home life divided by his relentless political ambitions, and a campaign wrought with uncertainty and conflict.
In the end, I couldn’t help but notice Obama’s steely grit fueled by optimism and a growing self confidence which we all can learn from.
I don’t give a damn what your political beliefs are; the lessons from the 2007–08 presidential campaign will be a game changer to those of us who put them into practice.
First off, Obama had been a successful senator in his home state of Illinois. Sometime after the 2006 midterms, speculation that he might run for president in 2008 grew substantially.
Naturally, he denied that he may have been considering such a lofty undertaking to his constituents. Deep down, the idea had become more appealing to him. His wife, not so much.
Michelle was direct from the very beginning with her husband. She repeatedly expressed her displeasure with what could become a deeply uprooted life for her and their very young kids.
I picture Obama, with his considerable speaking skills and natural charisma, reassuring his annoyed wife that “all will be okay, trust me.” But that charm plays much differently in a marriage.
It was February 2007 when Obama officially announced his candidacy. Not only was it the exact opposite of what his wife wanted, it invited tons of criticism and even cruelty from the media and public.
It is challenging enough running for president, but when the candidate is a young black man with little political experience, the degree of difficulty expands dramatically.
Add to all that an extremely polarizing name that reminds many of two of the United States’ biggest enemies (Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden), and it’s like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube while wearing a damn blindfold.
Obama details the various mistakes made during the early months of his campaign. That includes the handful of times when he fucked up his speeches.
In one notable passage, he recounts the time when, during a debate in ’07, he was too long winded in answering questions. That led to the moderator cutting him off at least twice.
His campaign strategists told him that he made the mistake of trying to actually answer the question. Apparently, he was supposed to express his message in “pithy sound bites.”
There were the challenges of facing the venerable “Clinton Machine,” which had been a political mainstay for many years. Hillary Clinton was his opponent and she posed many issues for the novice candidate.
I was struck by Obama’s candor in revisiting the racial divide and ignorance that he faced on the campaign trail. One woman wouldn’t even shake his hand. He heard the word, “nigger” often.
Despite these endless challenges, Obama let his positive attitude and optimism rule the day. Even when he second guessed himself, he always returned to the correct mindset. That is the ultimate takeaway.
It’s a reminder to us that we can achieve monumental progress and success if we adopt the same approach in our endeavors. I’m in. Are you?