51 / 52: ChangeFinally after a nearly two-year campaign [although it seemed even longer], the U.S. voters have spoken – loudly and clearly!  In an historic election, Barack Obama won not only a popular vote by many percentage points, but he trounced his opponent in an Electoral landslide.  Regardless of your political stripes, the respect due Barack Obama and his campaign staff is both enormous and unquestionable.  Together they overcame tremendous odds on so many fronts – the first African American candidate with any true prospects of winning the presidency, defeating a seemingly unstoppable Hillary Clinton [and the entire Clinton political machine] in the Democratic primaries, creating a ticket with two senators on it when no senator had won the presidency in decades, and many others.

And now, on this morning after Election Day, our country wakes up in a new era – one that we can all be extremely proud of.  We, the American voting public, have demonstrated to the world that America wants to regain its position as a respected leader of nations.  We seek redemption for policies that have left even some of our staunchest allies looking askew at our decisions and actions abroad.  We have shown that the American public has, at times, a voice of its own – distinct from that of our government and our policies.  We should all stand proud at the progress achieved with the mere casting of our individual votes – according to Real Clear Politics, over 136 million people voted, the highest turnout rate since 1908.

We have also moved the dial on racial issues that have plagued our country for nearly our entire existence.  Surely, that dial moved greatly nearly 150 years ago at the behest of another political icon from the state of Illinois – Abraham Lincoln – who rallied public opinion through his rhetoric and speeches.  It moved in the right direction yet again during the civil rights movement of the 1960s led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. whose inspirational words brought about change in the face of significant opposition.  These two seminal moments in our country’s history set the stage for the events of the 2008 Presidential election.  Since Dr. King’s assassination, despite his incalculable achievements, our country has still lived without true equality for all, without boundless hopes and dreams for every child, and with a caustic racism languishing in the shadows of our society.

Some 40 years after Dr. King inspired a nation and 145 years after President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, we have reached another milestone.  We can now proudly say that the United States is a place where race doesn’t limit one’s potential, where children of every ethnicity, color, societal class, etc. can dream of unbounded possibilities, and where all Americans and citizens around the world can look at the leader of our nation and see someone who by his mere physical characteristics signals that our country can change with the needs of the world.

As a business leader, I am inspired by the achievements of our country.  What President-elect Obama will accomplish waits to be seen.  But the very fact of his election by a majority of American voters, is proof enough that change is in the air.  We must all embrace this moment and look within to see how we can act upon the positive change that this election embodies. As Erika Andersen says:

Whether you’re Democrat or Republican, Green, Socialist, or Independent, I hope you’re pausing to celebrate the fact that an African-American has been elected president of the United States for the first time in our nation’s history.  This one event is having and will continue to have an unimaginable impact all over the world.

I am inspired to look at my own situation and determine how I can effect positive change within my world. I am thinking of Seth Godin’s Tribes “Leadership … is about creating change that you believe in”.  I encourage everyone to do the very same.  For as we have now demonstrated, when we as a collective determine that change is desired, we can make it real.  Now we must take the momentum created by this and show that we are serious about making positive change happen within our own realms.

Nina Nets It Out: Don’t let this amazing moment be fleeting.  I urge all of you to ask those that work with you, for you and above you to capture this moment, reflect upon its meaning, and identify and act upon positive changes you can make.  Rising tides do raise all ships and if we each do just one thing to make positive change, we will all benefit greatly and show that 2008 was a crucial turning point in our country’s history, our own lives and in each nation across the globe.  I’m not planning on waiting until January 20, 2009 to begin my own journey of change and I hope you don’t either!