What Obama and I Don’t Have In Common…Yet

So, yesterday I got a call in response to my resume. A woman by the name of Mimi Aronson called me from an organization that sends out literacy consultants to schools in New York City. I had responded to their search for a supervisory position which basically would manage approximately 10-16 consultants, observe them, provide them with professional development (PD), etc. Mimi starts off the conversation by telling me how impressive my resume is. In fact, she has over a hundred and fifty resumes on her desk and mine was the most clear, the easiest to read, and again – extremely impressive. Thank you, she exclaims. I thank her for thanking me. Then she asks me about my experience with literacy. So, I tell her a little about the last company I worked with, explained that it was a literacy based company that focused primarily on bringing in multicultural literature into schools, that my dissertation was on literacy instruction from a socio-cultural perspective at the middle and high school level. My resume also shows that I taught a course in literacy at Manhattanville College – entitled, Literacy and Social Development. So, Mimi responded that she was not sure that my experience in literacy was sufficient. You see, she explained, we are a NYC based company where balanced literacy is the thing and I see that you don’t have at least five years experience in balanced literacy. Yes, I know, I replied, balanced literacy is a big deal in NewYork. So while I have been a national consultant, my time in New York has been limited. I am familiar with balanced literacy, I assured her and would no doubt pull together the mass of resources and research necessary before day one to get familiar with the specific details of this NYC based approach. Mimi quickly responded that she had no doubt after a few minutes talking to me that I could “get up to speed” quickly but it would be hard to present me to very experienced consultants as their supervisor without the five years and would I be interested in doing part time consulting?

Then it dawned on me. I was Obama and Mimi was miming what Hillary Clinton announced to Obama while in the lead. Shouldn’t he consider being the Vice President? If he doesn’t have enough experience to be the President, how is it that he has enough experience to be the Vice President when one of the prerequisites of being the Vice President is clearly being ready to be the President? While Mimi started out the conversation by telling me how “impressive” my resume was, she quickly turned a two-minute conversation into my lack of experience and would I consider a lower job? A job I might add, that is very familiar to me, because I had been doing it for years! Well, Mimi, I would think that having a Ph.D. in education and national experience as a consultant would help validate the fact that I have something to offer in a supervisory role, I told her. And quite frankly, I thought (but did not say) the work of the consultant going into school after school working with a roster of fifteen to thirty teachers in ridiculously stressful environments (all of which would no doubt be radically different in climate – imagine working with thirty different students across ten different schools that span five different boroughs and perhaps 6 different grades?) is far more critically dependent on one’s “level of experience and expertise” than the supervisor because they are giving the direct support to the teachers! I KNOW. I did that job. So, Mimi, I said, whether it be here or in Seattle, a consultants job I know and if you are concerned that I am not qualified for a supervisory position (that which you called me about ) then perhaps you should look around, interview other candidates, because – NO, I am not interested in part time consulting.

Mimi responds that of course, I understand why you wouldn’t but you must understand my concerns regarding your experience and well, frankly you just sound great on the phone, so if you don’t mind, I’m going to think about this and perhaps I will get back to you in a few weeks to set up a face to face interview.

So, while the media and political pundits alongside the Mamas and the Papas at home continue to desperately hold on to the now tired cliché of attacking Obama’s “lack of” experience (while we know that executives in ALL fields from wealthy Harvard degrees have been in positions of power and prestige right out of college because of their connections and donations making extremely generous salaries and making heavy decisions) – this man continues to stand up in front of the masses, time and time again (and yesterday’s speech was a historical testament to the fact that you can talk about the real deal about race in America and still run for president) with eloquence and pride, with precision and commitment with persistence and mind boggling clarity – and talk about the truth. Starting with himself always, extending himself to his brothers and sisters closest to his side, then the community in Chicago, and now the nation – as it should be. Because as we cast our energy into the world it must resonate from the inside out, from the small circle to the larger one – Obama relentlessly demonstrates leadership and dignity espousing unity in the face of such harsh criticism and attack on the value of his background, education, experience. While people voted for Bush and continue to vote for the same GOP or others who with just a little bit of scrutiny are cut with the same scissors after all – who in the light of our history have made and continue to make so many of us Americans cringe with shame and embarrassment, Obama’s resume continues to be impressive but in the end – not quite sure why – might still, still not be enough. When will it be enough? And if you are like me that does not accept a position of authority without understanding that one can never have all the answers and one must always see themselves as a life long learner – I ask: What about me and about my impressive resume communicates the inability to grow, to lead? What are the criteria for leadership?

I admire Obama for his strength and audacity and courage and I think about myself, after hanging up the phone with Mimi. How tired I felt. Then the anger. Then tired again. And I think, do I have the stamina it takes, the motivation it takes, the strength it takes to continue caring about the things that I have always cared about, to continue talking, doing, living and wanting to commune with the world around me even though the world around me still, still rewards some people effortlessly and punishes others even in their hour of true greatness?


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