billionaire talk-show host, often refers to
an ‘A-ha!’ moment. It is a moment
of perfect clarity when we stop in our tracks
and realise that we finally understand something
I think it is what we used to call a brain
wave during my college days. An ‘A-ha’
moment is that instant when a bulb is turned
on in your head and a flash of wisdom crosses
your mind and you capture it with amazing certainty
and understanding. Unfortunately, I do not seem
to get enough ‘A-ha’ moments, but
last week I had one.
Many of us are holding our breath as the moment
for nominating the US Democratic Party candidate
approaches. My moment happened as I was reading
an article by an Associated Press writer, Charles
Babington, titled ‘Obama on the verge
The writer, like the rest of us, is fascinated
by the surprising rise and rise of Barack Obama.
“Representative Elijah Cummings, a black
Maryland Democrat who endorsed Obama early,
says the Illinois senator convinces people of
all races that Americans as a society, and as
individuals, can achieve higher goals if they
“He says we can do better, and his life
is the epitome of doing better,” says
Cummings, noting that Obama was raised by a
single mother who sometimes relied on food stamps.
“He convinces people that there’s
a lot of good within them.” And why should
they believe such feel-good platitudes?
“Because he’s real and he has confidence
in his own competence,” Cummings says.
Without question, Obama is an electrifying
speaker. At virtually every key juncture in
his trajectory, he has used inspirational oratory
to generate excitement, buy time to deal with
crises, and force party activists to rethink
their assumptions that a black man with an African
name cannot seriously vie for the presidency.
Now, while the article as a whole was inspiring,
I found my ‘A-ha’ moment in the
phrase: “he has confidence in his own
I paused right there and thought about all
the times that I had missed opportunities simply
because I had little confidence in my ability.
I thought of the number of times that I could
have made a difference in other people’s
lives but failed to raise a finger to help because
I felt I did not measure up to the task, or
because I thought there was someone else that
could do a better job.
I remembered the times I did not speak up because
I thought no one would listen or even worse,
someone would laugh at me.
I remembered the times I pretended not to see
things in order to avoid a confrontation. I
realised that in all those instances, lack of
confidence in my competence had failed not just
me but also other people that I could have helped.
Those who are weak and trampled on, especially
women in our society who are often relegated
to silent and invisible roles, will understand
this better than most.
Even when they assume high political or executive
roles, they are often stifled into silence by
suffocating cultural practices absorbed consciously
and unconsciously as they try to claim their
rightful place in a male-dominated society.
Now put these thoughts in a wider context and
imagine how much work is left undone because
we have stopped believing!
I wondered in my flash of inspiration how much
potential was sitting there untapped, simply
because good people are trapped by lack of confidence
in their ability to change their lives, their
And in that moment, I also appreciated fully
the Obama phenomenon. His ability to unleash
that confidence in others, so that they believe
again in their competence to change their society,
that they can make a difference.
His magnetism for young and old, rich and poor,
black and white, including the 75,000 people
that he drew to a single rally in Portland,
Oregon, last weekend; is due in large measure
to the fact that people recognise their better
selves in this 46-year-old man whose ‘audacity
of hope’ has propelled him to such incredible
And they nod and think, nay, believe, that if
Barack Obama can do it, so can they.
And they chant with the faith of new believers:
‘Yes we can!’
The author is a Special Envoy, Office of the
President, FDC. firstname.lastname@example.org