State of the Union Address – Post Script

This is the concluding part of the blog post that appeared on 14 Jan. Some more lessons from the SOUA by Obama to reinforce the power of collective intelligence.

Globalization and latest technologies have made the world smaller, so to speak. Information is more accessible compared to maybe a decade ago.The State of The Union Address (SOUA) delivered by US President Barack Obama on January 12 this year is a hot topic that has garnered attention world-wide.

But who would have thought that soon after the SOUA, the media would be abuzz with excitement to present a short take using the power of technology? That’s what rocket scientist and YouTube star, Destin Sandlin, managed to do. He and two others, Ingrid Nilsen and Adande Thorne, got an opportunity to interview President Obama. Imagine being enabled to conduct an interview with 3 different backdrops at the White House itself! But that’s not where it stopped. You may call it reverse engineering or transmission of an innovative kind. With people on the move, there is a constant clamor to stay updated enough to catch current and contextual conversations. The National Public Radio (NPR) did just that!

State of the Union Address Post Script

With YouTube taking video streaming to a different height and decibel, it was NPR’s turn to ride on the social media wave. So now it is the audio signals that take the center-stage. NPR projected the interviewer’s (Destin) perspectives on the perfectly ‘set-staged’ conversation with the president. Thereafter, YouTube was used to upload the audio with the transcript making it conveniently accessible! Such an effort not only helped in creating a new class of audience but also gave a fresh insight on how the old and the new can co-exist.

Coming back to the SOUA, it indicates the leader’s desire to spread best practices across America. Obama, who begins every day with an intelligence briefing, says on the best practices: “That’s part of a brighter future. In fact, it turns out many of our best corporate citizens are also our most creative.”

“How do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges?” is a question he poses to the audience. Instead of denying the existence of Russia’s ‘Sputnik’ launched 60 years ago, the leader points out that the US space program was conceived overnight and 12 years later, “we were walking on the moon,”a line that brought immediate applause.

Now,that spirit of discovery is in our DNA. America is Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver. America is Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride. America is every immigrant and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley racing to shape a better future,” were indicative of the strong emphasis on the need to spur innovation.

“That’s who we are, and over the past seven years, we’ve nurtured that spirit. We’ve protected an open Internet, and taken bold new steps to get more students and low-income Americans online.We’ve launched next-generation manufacturing hubs and online tools that give an entrepreneur everything he or she needs to start a business in a single day. But we can do so much more.” These are compelling expressions by the president, who is for a progressive approach.

Realizing that cancer cure requires humongous resources, Obama goes on to highlight the need for collaborative ‘national’ effort to use the ‘new moon-shot’ to find a cure.

Once again, the power of collective intelligence can be experienced when one takes note of this statement of the president – “Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You will be pretty lonely because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.”

Similarly, the power of data analytics come to the fore: “Listen, seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history. Here are the results. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power. On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills and employs more Americans than coal — in jobs that pay better than average.”

Just like organizations have to be quick to embrace change, here’s what Obama had to say encouraging a new perspective – “now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier energy sources. Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future, especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels. We do them no favor when we don’t show them where the trends are going. And that’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet. And that way, we put money back into those communities and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.”

In conclusion, leadership has to work or be made to work. The availability of data points can enable organizations to remain focused objectively. “No nation attacks us directly or our allies because they know that’s the path to ruin. Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead. They call us.”

The importance of collaborative, disruptive thinking and security issues finds testimony in his expression “…For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL’s financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out their vicious ideology. With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we are taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, their vicious ideology and weapons. We’re training, arming and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria.”

Lessons learnt well shape the future course of action and execution excellence: “even if it’s done with the best of intentions. That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately will weaken us. It’s the lesson of Vietnam. It’s the lesson of Iraq, and we should have learned it by now. Fortunately, there is a smarter approach, a patient and disciplined strategy that uses every element of our national power. It says America will always act, alone if necessary, to protect our people and our allies, but on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight.”

If a smart and collaborative strategy, using the right tools and partnership, can help in resolving global conflicts, then organizations would do well to pay heed to this approach. That’s what Obama’s address seeks to convey: “Our military, our doctors, our development workers — they were heroic. They set up the platform that then allowed other countries to join in behind us and stamp out that epidemic. Hundreds of thousands — maybe a couple million lives were saved. That’s how we forged a trans-pacific partnership to open markets, and protect workers and the environment, and advance American leadership in Asia. It cuts 18,000 taxes on products made in America which will then support more good jobs here in America. With TPP, China does not set the rules in that region, we do. We want to show our strength in this new century! Approve this agreement.Give us the tools to enforce it. It’s the right thing to do.”

In conclusion, if an organization is looking at consolidation, here are a few lines that will generate the energy and the verve to work towards that direction: “So, if you want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in the hemisphere, recognize that the Cold War is over; Lift the embargo…the future we want, all of us want — opportunity and security for our families, a rising standard of living, a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids — is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates. It will only happen if we fix our politics.Better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country with different regions…different attitudes…different interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, fiercely, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.”

“But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t — it doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, it doesn’t work if we think that our political opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America.”

“…and I’m addressing the American people now — if we want a better politics, it’s not enough just to change a congressman or change a senator or even change a president. We have to change the system to reflect our better selves.We’ve got to make it easier to vote, not harder. We need to modernize it for the way we live now.This is America. We want to make it easier for people to participate. And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do just that.But I can’t do these things on my own. Changes in our political process — in not just who gets elected, but how they get elected — will only happen when the American people demand it! It depends on you. That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people.”


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