Reflections on the Election of Barack Obama

by Amina Knowlan | February 2009

AT THIS TIME IN HISTORY, a month after the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States, the world awakens. In his words, "we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord." The first news analyst I heard moments after the inauguration said, "I am going to use an old fashioned word here. President Obama is a leader who connects." Wow, I thought. If that is an old fashioned concept, no wonder we have gone so far astray. No wonder an alchemical hope is awakened in our collective consciousness.

Amidst the swirl of emotions, prayers, wisdom and inspiration, I find myself standing knee deep in the strong currents of this river of change. It is a moment filled first with liberation—and the resounding j"oy that spreads from smile to smile at this deeply symbolic release from oppression and bigotry. (For a powerful reflection of this liberation, see Gig Todd's essay entitled, "On the Eve of History," at the end of this article.) It is also a moment that contains rivers of tears for all of the suffering and injustice that led us to this milestone. It is a moment filled with urgency for the future we must now co-create. It is a time filled with hardship as the old structures that have held hierarchy and privilege in place crumble to make way for the new. It is a moment that leads me to deep questions.

I ask, "What must I inaugurate? What are you inaugurating? What must we, collectively inaugurate?" (The word inaugurate in it's oldest meaning was to "consecrate or install under favorable omens that were derived from the flights of birds.")

In the world that is to come, how will we sustain through this time of chaotic and necessary change? How will we keep our individual and collective ships afloat as the old structures and paradigms come crumbling down? What does it look like — really — for me to invest in and trust the connections — the relationships and groups—that will carry us forward, rather than securing my own house to weather the storm? How will we make our way toward leadership that occurs through our connections and supports our ongoing interconnection? How do we manifest the truth of Barack Obama’s words, "Out of many, we are one?"

On January 20, Thomas Friedman, a columnist for the New York Times, honored this historic moment before making a plea for seizing this moment for radical change.

... While it is impossible to exaggerate what a radical departure it is from our past that we have inaugurated a black man as president, it is equally impossible to exaggerate how much our future depends on a radical departure from our present. As Obama himself declared from the Capitol steps: "Our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. We need to get back to work on our country and our planet in wholly new ways.

If our future depends on a radical departure from our past, "What will you, what must we, inaugurate?" On a Matrix business call following the inauguration, my own inauguration was apparent. The team of people that is now steering Matrix Leadership is guiding a ship that is no longer relying solely on my leadership or my skills or my vision or my dedication. While we are employing more sound business practices than ever, we are clearly being guided and moved where we are to be by the strength of our connections. We each have extraordinary "skin in the game." None of us knows the outcome or whether we will succeed and yet each of us is steadfast and committed.

The risk and workload involved in building a business is being distributed among us. The leadership is coming through each of us and more importantly, through our connections. To quote my personal coach, we are individually and collectively, "making our way toward the center point." If our planning was limited to the usual mechanisms of logical prediction and control, we might be worried about staying afloat. Instead, we are being carried by a combination of hard work, careful assessment, synchronicities and miracles.

There is clearly a destiny, a purpose moving through us. We are riding it with the best of our skills and the exhale of our collective surrender. For me personally, I am inaugurating truly being a part of something larger than myself. I am re-storying myself in deeper trust and communion than I have ever known. Amidst the stormy seas of uncertain economic times, we are called together to serve this collective shift in how we work together—to birth a "new era of leadership." I invite you to name your own inauguration, your own calling to this collective emergence at this time. What in you must die or be released? What will you open to? What will you engage in? And, the golden Matrix question, "With whom will you conspire and co-create these changes?"

Next month's E-zine will offer a glimpse of the latest Matrix Leadership wisdom for how we work together collectively.

An Excerpt from
On the Eve of History by Gig Anthony Todd

TODAY WE HONOR THE LEGACY of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Tomorrow we witness the inauguration of Barack Obama as president of the United States. The day after that, I and countless other men and women – Black, Brown and White – become different people, empowered people, loosed from the divisive shackles of slavery and oppression. The waters of change swirl around us like we are stones in a mighty river.

It was only one yesterday when my child came home in tears, flooded with questions about the state of Black America, about his education in so-called Black History, about slavery, about the ongoing quest for civil rights. Really, through the eyes of a fourth-grader, they were questions about how Blacks were less than human, which was to say less than White. There were tears then, but the questions hurt more. "Mom, Dad ... Can't Blacks do anything besides play sports?" Of course, most purveyors in mass media, of which I was one, would deny blatant racism on the pages and screens of their trade. To a 10-year-old it was abundantly clear.

It was only a yesterday before that when a girl who kissed me in the morning broke the news that afternoon that her mother wouldn't allow her to date me. That happened more than once. Sometimes mothers, sometimes fathers. Which was to say, my skin color made me less than human, less than White. For years I blocked those moments from memory. Easier on the soul to live as if they hadn't happened ...

Today though, we prepare to witness hope overtake fear. We see a living dream of unity, of connection and common purpose. It is the same dream that refused to be silenced, refused to be assassinated. On the eve of history, I bow to those on whose shoulders we stand – those who sacrificed, who toiled, who died for a future they could feel if not see, imagine if not touch. Namasté, dear ones.

Asked about tomorrow's inauguration, one little Black boy standing on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., told a reporter this: "I feel full!" He explained: Full of possibility, full of hope and full of the feeling that he, too, could actually accomplish and become anything.

With two words – Mr. President – that truth of equal creation becomes self-evident in practice as well as in theory. That boy becomes "full." So do my children and so do I. In one moment tomorrow, the shackles of history lose all power to control us unless we submit willingly to be bound.

With a sweeping ballot, the American people — White, Black and Brown — rejected the story of slavery and oppression and chose to write a new story where the vision of our country's founders and the dream of Rev. King can fill a little boy's heart with plans and possibilities and no one can deny they are within his reach.

It is, I see, a future in which people will not be blind to the color of his skin, but will come to know him by the strength of his conviction, the essence of his spirit and content of his character. One day, Rev. King, will be tomorrow.

To read Gig Todd’s essay in it’s entirety, click here

i/, January, 2009

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Matrix offers an incredible model for creating deep and nourishing connections while tending to the intelligence of the group field. It was amazing to reach such a profound level of intimacy, belonging and creativity in a new group. I think this training is valuable for anyone who works with groups, organizations, or is interested in embodying social artistry for personal and social transformation.
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Marin County, CA