Authenticity, whether hopeful buzzword or sincere leadership quality, is one of the measures weʻre taking of our two presidential candidates.
Hereʻs my first scan of authenticity and Obama. (Iʻll write more about this, and about Romney, as the campaign continues.)
Because Romneyʻs been challenged on his authenticity since he entered the campaign, whenever he has a success, his supporters praise him as authentic, meaning anything from persuasive to consistent to real.
The association of Obama with authenticity is a different order, according to the easily accessed sources on Google. (Do a search — itʻs fascinating….)
First and foremost, the authenticity of his much discussed, much evaluated, and officially verified birth certificate is still being bandied about. Anti-Obama pundits donʻt want to acknowledge his legal authenticity as an American. Itʻs a fascinating attempt to undermine his credibility as a citizen, whatever the facts in the matter.
The second debate tops in the Google charts is his authenticity as a Black man. This discussion centers around his geneology — recently traced to a bi-racial slave couple through his motherʻs family line, thanks to researchers at Ancestry.com. (Hereʻs the CBS summary and New York Times summary of Ancestry. comʻs findings).
Hereʻs Rush Limbaugh on Obama not really being an “authentic black” just because he has ʻslave blood.” Apparently, for Limbaugh, itʻs bad enough that the lineage is traced through his white mother (is it a race or gender problem, I wonder!?). Limbaughʻs spin is that itʻs a Dem spin to make him really Black (therefore more electable).
Then, being the pundit he is, he re-spins the story to say itʻs just not true. Hereʻs a Dem bloggerʻs response to Limbaughʻs rhetoric if you want to see some good links, and an entertaining summary, with some interesting comments. For example, is being Black the same as being treated as Black? What percentage blood makes someone a Black American nowadays? And what if weʻre all mutts in our cells? Where does authenticity live if weʻre all mongrels?
In terms of leadership, this kind of identity politics is a distraction. Leadership authenticity isnʻt about being real in the blood or the birth certificate. (Thatʻs the luck of history or legal status). Authentic leadership is about the way the leader shows up in action in the world.
So Iʻll end the blog with two more substantial Obama-authenticators:
Hereʻs a snippet of Obama, in his usual self-deprecating style, talking with Oprah Winfrey about authenticity, or as Oprah puts it, “staying real.”
And hereʻs a wonderful Vanity Fair interview about the challenges of authenticity and performance in the office of the Presidency, specifically focusing on discussions about Obamaʻs performance of his emotions. Itʻs an interesting read about staying real in the public eye and pressure of being the President. Itʻs not a deep take on authenticity, but itʻs a start….
As the Presidential campaign slides into home, I hope we get more substance about leadership authenticity in action, and less fluff about personality and identity.