Barack Obama: A Sad Tale of Squandered Greatness

This past Saturday Renee and I watched Invictus. Invictus was a movie directed by Clint Eastwood starring Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, the captain of the South African rugby team and Morgan Freeman as the newly elected president Nelson Mandela.  Invictus is a great movie, a tale of forgiveness, and racial unity and overcoming enormous, racial obstacles.
The title of the movie comes from the poem with same title by Victorian poet, William Ernest Henley.(Click here to read poem) The plot of the movie revolves around the two central characters, Francois (Matt Damon) and Nelson Mandela.  The backdrop of the movie begins with the momentous release of Nelson Mandela in 1990 from Robben Island.  Four years later Mandela was elected as president of the new, recently desegregated, South Africa.  Mandela, through a series of meetings befriends Francois, the captain of the team and inspires him to use the sport as a way of uniting the country.    After about a year of training and playing matches the South African team wins the rugby world cup uniting an entire nation, and vindicating Nelson Mandela’s courageous move in uniting South Africa.  (Click here to view movie trailer)
The scene that impacted me the most was when Mandela unannounced, stormed into a national athletic meeting. The board was in the process of voting to change the rugby team’s jersey colors to black, a color representing the black population’s struggle with Apartheid.  Mandela, in a courageous, potentially dangerous move decides to confront these leaders and urges them not to change the country’s sport colors.  He urges them instead to unite, to forgive, to use the country’s Springbok colors instead of the new proposed change.
            I couldn’t help but notice the similarities of another transcendent political leader, Barack Obama. Obama was a unique candidate he was bi racial, highly educated, did not come from a political family, was young, attractive, wrote two bestselling books and was a great and inspirational speaker.  He took the political world by surprise and became our nation’s first bi racial president.   So what did he do when took office? Did he unite a scattered nation like Mandela?  Unfortunately No; unlike Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama did not seek to unite his nation through forgiveness and reconciliation, he instead decided to further alienate his opponents.  Obama decided instead that he would use his political clout as a way of passing legislature that suited his preferences, ignoring the general needs of his population.  The consequence of Obama’s misleader ship is that we have a country that is more divided, angrier, more hurting than when he first took office.  So why did this happen?
I believe that the tragedy of this all is that Barack Obama choose not to forgive his opponents, to unite our whole country behind his leadership. He could have used his power like Mandela to unite a fledgling country. He could have been great; he could have been so much more.   Great leaders are great because they possess the extraordinary ability to unite people often times with opposing points of view, behind a central cause. Think of great leaders such as George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.  What made Abraham Lincoln great?  Was it the Gettysburg Address?  Was it his brilliant leadership? Was it his passing of the Emancipation Proclamation?  No it wasn’t these attributes although great.  Instead it was his uncanny ability to forgive, to unite a country under one flag. Lincoln could have punished the South after Union’s victory but he didn’t; he choose to forgive and like Mandela he was able to transcend a nation’s hatred towards itself, ushering in true peace, and forgiveness.   Obama unfortunately has not done this and as a result our country is suffering greatly for it.  Barack Obama has forfeited his greatness, for political expediency and the long term consequence is that we have a nation now that is seething with anger and disunity.  Obama has missed his opportunity for greatness.


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