Having received the assignment to characterize one of the political leaders of the 21st century, nothing really occurred to me for a very long time. Not because in our century there are no truly legendary leaders, whose activities can be proud of not only their country of origin, but the whole world. First of all, because so many events are happening now that it is extremely difficult to concentrate on one thing. Nevertheless, I chose one of the most popular politicians of our time – Barack Obama.
US President B. Obama, elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012, still receives mixed assessments both in his own country and abroad. American society is split in half with respect to its president. The conservative half and the Anglo-Saxon nucleus judge him sharply, rejecting most of his domestic and foreign policy initiatives. For the “neocons,” as non-conservative ideologues in the Republican Party, he is a traitor to US national interests. The liberal half of the United States as a whole assesses him positively, but sometimes ambiguous.
Many traditional liberals consider his policies a rejection of ‘left’, especially in matters of gender and racial and ethnic policies, as in the global vision of the new world order. Indeed, Obama is developing liberalism in the direction that some American researchers call progressive.
Naturally, among the huge number of achievements or, at times, unfulfilled promises, the most important event was the official legalization of same-sex marriages, because since 2008, during the presidency of Republican George W. Bush, supporters of same-sex love were in an even more difficult position, because the new president its policy was largely based on religious norms.
Thus, until the beginning of the XXI century the problems of the gay-lesbian community remained an area in which the country’s top leadership was not ready to make radical changes, and only during the 2008 election campaign did gay rights first become one of the central topics of debate between the two main contenders to become a candidate for Presidents of the US Democratic Party. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama repeatedly appealed to the LGBTQ+ community.
First of all, it is important to determine what type of leaders Barack Obama is. Populist, democrat, supporter of authoritarian or all the same moral leadership? Well, in order to find an answer to this question, we need to turn to what each person sees in absolutely any leader, namely – image.
The appearance of Barack Obama, of course, played a crucial role in creating his political image. In fact, the fact that the African-American became president confirms that overcoming ethnic barriers, old prejudices, misunderstanding is possible. The fact that Barack Obama is an African American blew up the American public, created intrigue around the presidential candidate, heightened the attention of colleagues and voters.
If we talk about appearance, then it can be argued that Obama, like John F. Kennedy in his time, won the election precisely because of his appearance and natural charisma. In addition, he has an ideal age: not very young, but at the same time not too old. Such a “golden mean” between relative youth and old age has not been associated with energy, assertiveness, confidence and vitality. Therefore, Barack Obama, using his assertiveness in speeches and emotional techniques, is very popular among ordinary Americans. Indeed, an open, kind smile attracts glances, creates a positive mood, disposes to itself.
A significant role in the visual dimension of the image is played by photographs that often appear in the media. Many photos of a democrat have a hidden meaning, which is easy to decipher, giving the president’s image certain, beneficial characteristics. In many photographs, Barack Obama is depicted standing in front of a huge crowd with his hand raised up. Such photos create the impression of a strong, confident leader, crowd leader, or an idol, followed by people.
If some of the images reveal Obama as an idol and the sovereign, then another part of the photos shows him completely from the other side. In one of the photos, the president of the United States is depicted as an ordinary person playing basketball – traditionally the favorite game of African Americans. The hidden meaning is to show that the relationship between Obama and other blacks at the ethnic level is not broken. A special place in the visual dimension of the image of Barack Obama is occupied by photographs of his family, which open to the audience of Obama the husband, Obama the father. One of the photographs shows the quivering and tender relations that have survived between Barak and his wife after many years of marriage. Photos showing a friendly family of the president show him a good father, and a good father for children in the mass consciousness should turn into a good father for the nation.
The next criterion for assessing leadership qualities is of course the skills of speaking and attracting people’s attention with the help of
Fred I. Greenstein in his book “The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to Barack Obama” said that the goal to influence the crowd rationally, and not emotionally, lies at the heart of Barack Obama’s verbal communication. Barack Obama speaks very emotionally, with a huge positive message. His speeches can ignite the coldest audience. Obama was able to charm even politicians, businessmen and journalists – people who by virtue of their profession got used to treat absolutely everything with suspicion and skepticism. In speeches of Barack Obama there is little specificity, but there are a lot of common phrases, emotional slogans, appeals. None of Obama’s speeches gave a specific action program, a specific country development project or a plan to get out of the crisis, but the 42nd US President Bill Clinton, for example, considers Obama to be the greatest speaker since Kennedy .
The speeches of the president are built on promises and on phrases that people want to hear, and this effectively affects the mass consciousness. Obama promises to bring his people to a brighter future, revive the “American dream”, make education more accessible, provide people with housing and support the middle class. It should be noted that these promises are especially relevant in the current situation of the financial crisis, but there would be nothing special about them in a different situation. H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman in their book “Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S.” claim that in his speeches, Obama says a lot about himself: “I don’t think that I’m any special, for example, in love for my mother, in love for my grandmother and grandfather”, “The fact that my father is pitch black, and mother “White as milk is practically not deposited in my mind at all,” admits such youth mistakes as alcohol and drug use: “I am a person who lives a normal life, and it so happens that sometimes I make mistakes.” Sharing his personal experiences with the people, the democrat has to himself, makes it clear that he is an ordinary person, just like everyone else, and this attracts people .
Ron Walter`s article “Barack Obama and the Politics of Blackness” mentions that in recent years of President George W. Bush in the United States, there was a decrease in confidence in the current president, a massive condemnation of his actions, general disillusionment with the White House policy occurred, and uncertainty about the future arose. In addition to this negative situation was the financial crisis, which revealed shortcomings in the US economy. Disappointed in the politics of the Republicans, America was waiting for something new, and Barack Obama offered it in a timely manner. Against the background of the current historical situation, he turned out to be the most successful candidate for the presidency, destroying stereotypes and glorifying the legendary “American dream” .
Speaking about the contextual dimension of the image, one should also take into account the legal education of Barack Obama, who graduated from Columbia University in 1983, and from Harvard University Law School in 1991. According to voters, lawyer by education Barack Obama should know the price of his words, which is important for a politician. It should also be noted that in his youth, Barack Obama lived for some time in a very poor quarter of Chicago. This fact of his biography, becoming public knowledge, caused respect among the poor segments of the US population. This was reflected in the results of the 2008 elections: there was only a poor margin in favor of Obama, among other categories of the population the difference in the number of votes given for him and for his main rival, McCain, was insignificant.
Well, of course, any leader, no matter what field of activity he is engaged in, proves his promises by his actions. For me, as a representative of the younger generation, the most important achievement of Barack Obama is the official recognition of same-sex marriage.
According to a public opinion poll conducted by CNN in February 2015, the majority of Americans (63%) support the legalization of same-sex marriage across the country. It should be noted the contrasts of public opinion associated with regional differences and commitment to a particular political party. So, as of March 2011, single-sex marriages were supported by about 59% of the population of the Northeast United States, 56% – the West, 40% in the Midwest and 34% in the South. Among Democrats, 57% are in favor of same-sex marriages, while the share of Republicans is 23%, and among the undecided 51%. There are also age differences, for example, 64% of people under the age of 30 have a positive attitude to marital equality, while among people of the older generation (more than 70 years), those are only 27%. Since 2013, all national polls show support for same-sex marriage by most Americans. Also, one of the polls showed that every third American who supports same-sex marriage, previously held opposing views, but changed his mind .
As a result, we can say that Barack Obama, throughout his career, has shown himself to be a very educated, experienced, and extremely liberal leader. The results of his moral leadership are seen primarily in “Obamaker”, a US federal law signed by President Obama on March 23, 2010. The legislative basis for health care reform, which has become one of the largest projects in US history since the mid-1960s, of course, legalization of same-sex marriage and in general, global liberalization of both foreign and domestic policies of the United States of America.
Naturally, the results of the edge of a strong deviation in the “left”, namely, Obama’s policy towards the EU led the Old World to a crisis and strengthened the position of the right in Europe. The influx of migrants, caused by the destabilization of the situation in the Middle East, weakened the European Union and markedly cooled the attitude of its inhabitants towards the United States. A striking example of this is BREXIT.
The UK made its choice, despite the admonitions of Obama, who had come specially to Foggy Albion to discourage the British from leaving the EU. Part of the result of the American strategy of weakening the European Union was the freezing of negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Obama didn’t do anything else in another part of the world: the Trans-Pacific Partnership, so desired for him, which should have made the US economic leader of the region, also hung in the air.
The black page of the Obama administration was the attack of April 15, 2013 at the finish of the Boston Marathon. As a result, three people died, and 264 were injured. It was the first terrorist attack in the United States after the events of September 11, 2001. It was committed with the participation of the brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Russia warned the United States three times about the danger that young people could pose, but the information of the Russian special services was ignored by the American side.
In June 2013, a scandal broke out with the participation of the former employee of the CIA and the NSA, Edward Snowden. He gave the newspapers The Washington Post and The Guardian information about the mass surveillance of the US and British intelligence services over Internet users, as well as politicians and officials. Snowden fled the United States and sought asylum in Russia. Hillary Clinton became the person involved in the scandal with a leak of state secrets: the FBI accused the former secretary of state that she conducted business correspondence through a personal box. Probably including it cost her the presidency and hit the tangent on Obama’s own reputation.
The black page of the Obama administration was the attack of April 15, 2013 at the finish of the Boston Marathon. As a result, three people died, 264 were injured. It was the first terrorist attack in the United States after the events of September 11, 2001. It was committed with the participation of the brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Russia warned the United States three times about the danger that young people could pose, but the information of the Russian special services was ignored by the American side.
In June 2013, a scandal broke out with the participation of the former employee of the CIA and the NSA, Edward Snowden. He gave the newspapers The Washington Post and The Guardian information about the mass surveillance of the US and British intelligence services over Internet users, as well as politicians and officials. Snowden fled the United States and sought asylum in Russia.
Hillary Clinton became the person involved in the scandal with a leak of state secrets: the FBI accused the former secretary of state that she conducted business correspondence through a personal box. Probably including it cost her the presidency and hit the tangent on Obama’s own reputation.
But despite all these fundamental obstacles, there is still a huge amount of Americans who love Barack Obama and recognize his pronounced cultural and moral leadership.