human behavior

How to behave: lessons from the President

Posted in American Culture & Politics, Race & Ethnicity by humanb on October 17, 2009

Sometimes I wonder if the President is the only outspoken politician who knows how to behave. Everyone has heard about the 4th grader at the New Orleans town hall meeting who asked Obama: “Why do people hate you?” That seemed to resonate with us. Here’s a 9-year-old black boy in a city devastated by Hurricane Katrina, who should be inspired to see a black man as president, but instead sees him being hated. But that wasn’t the interesting part of the conversation.

Consider Obama’s reply, because he used it as a teaching moment.

He praised this boy for his courage in speaking up, and encouraged the crowd to applaud him. He was generous to his hypothetical critics – sympathetic even. He shaped his reply into a series of lessons in being tough, being calm, and maintaining perspective.  He said, in so many words, that this boy should not grow up to take things so personally. He shouldn’t respond by lashing out in anger and hurt. He should try to understand why people say hateful things. He should recognize that jobs with great responsibility require men with inner strength, who can be tested, and still stand tall.

He tried to show this boy what it means to be a man.

That’s class.

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