Jan 22, 2009

President Barack ‘Hope’ Obama

President Barack Hussein Obama was sworn into office as the 44th president of the United States of America on Tuesday.  Amongst the buzzing crowd of more than a million faces in the Washington DC Mall there was an air of anticipation and ultimately ‘hope’.

But, as you would imagine, we aren’t here to comment on the political accolades of of Obama, but the motivation of a Generation to support him to get to the position of, arguably, the most powerful man on the face of the earth. 

Grab a hold of these statistics:  the BBC reported that Obama won the votes of those under 30 by 68% to 31 %!  From the US-based CNBC news channel we can further add that this was the highest ever score of the youth vote achieved by any presidential candidate ever (since exit polls began in 1976).  Here’s the crunch... out of the total number of voters 10% were voting for the first time, and in this group 72% voted for Obama, and in the sub-30 (largely Generation Y) category 69% voted for Obama (compared to just 28% in favour of McCain). 

So, Why?  Here’s our analysis.  What caused the best part of a generation to support Barack Obama over McCain?  We see three elements:  Vision, Ownership, and Community.

First, Vision:  Obama created a new vision and was able to communicate it such that he achieved agreement from his supporters.  This inspired a generation to take ownership for communicating this to their peers.  It signalled their backing for the ‘audacity of hope’.  Second, Ownership:  Obama, whilst able to paint the picture, then actively sought the involvement of his supporters. He maintained, throughout his campaign, undertones of ‘You got me here’; ‘This is your doing’; and ‘Thank You’ – creating now almost iconic images of Obama clapping stadiums full of supporters: ‘It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy [and] who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep’ (Obama, Illinois, November 4, 2008).  Thirdly, he used, very effectively, 16 social networking sites – ranging from ‘Facebook’, ‘MySpace’ and ‘Twitter’ to ‘AsianAve’, ‘Faithbase’ and ‘Eons’ – to build a community of supporters aggregated in one place to whom he could blog (well, someone on his behalf we imagine), and importantly with whom he created a two-way dialogue (as opposed to a web-based corporate bill-board of promises summed up in values, behaviours and future projects).  In so-doing he listened to supporters, fence-sitters and cynics and espoused the generation y motto ‘ask, don’t tell’. 

There’s one final thing.  A sub-story perhaps, but one that is worthy of note.  Obama has been using a generation Y speech writer – Jon Favreau.  At 27 years old he has become the youngest ever director of speech writing to the White House.  Significant?  We think so.

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