Comments: The Obama Presidency and the Future of the Conflict Management Business: The Mediative Leader and the Activist Mediator

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Sally , S. Burlington VT   01/30/09
Explaining Our Collective Experience Through Words
As a woman who practices peace and circle gatherings regularly; holding space, deep listening, agreeing to disagree, truth telling and negotiating differences and objections comes naturally to me. A lot of us, try to be like president Obama and role model grace under pressure. But to be able to so eloquently put words on the page about this new " heart centered" leadership, role modeling and way of communicating brings the clarity home. I can only hope to write as well one day, and articulate so beautifully all that I feel inside. Thank you for a wonderful and timely article that raises the bar once again on our awareness.

Lester , Clarkston GA   12/05/08
Robert, my apologies for changing your name to Richard in my comment. My late father's name was Richard and he was a man of perception and a peacemaker. I guess while I read your piece, you reminded me of him and thus the faux pas. Cheers!

Lester Rennard, Clarkston GA   12/05/08
Very Enlightening Commentary
Richard has expressed some very thought provoking and enlightened opinions on the leadership direction in which he sees the Obama presidency heading and its implications for the field of conflict management. I am impressed with his great sense of discernment and wholeheartedly share his observations and conclusions. The times in which we live demands for leaders who demonstrate their strength and wisdom not by carrying about a club to subdue those who are in disagreement with their views but who will willingly listen to those whom they desire to influence. They will understand that regardless of culture, language, nationality or ideology, we all share one common human predisposition - the desire to be heard and to have our dignity acknowledged and validated. Such leaders will also understand that the most effective way to destroy an ideological opponent is not to mortify him but to seek to understand the interest that lies behind the positions that are in conflict and to jointly work at finding those options that will reconcile rather than ostracize. We may use power to intimidate and subdue those who are powerless but we do not transform them into allies who will willingly cooperate with us for the common good. We may also use that same power to acknowledge the rights, interests and dignity of the same group and have them among our most ardent supporters and allies. In the months and years ahead as the Obama presidency takes shape and demonstrates its mettle, we can only trust that what we are now observing will serve to transform the perceptions of how America is viewed. In the substantive areas of his foreign and domestic policies and in how they are administered, one hopes that his administration will influence those perceptions and focus them on the ideals that are at the foundation of what makes America a truly great nation and thus win over the confidence and cooperation of at least some of our opponents both domestic and abroad. Conflict management and dispute resolution practitioners understand this dynamic quite well. As Richard rightly suggests, the attitude of the commander-in-chief has a trickle down effect and has a way of infecting the attitudes of the rank and file. This fresh focus on proven and effective ways on managing and resolving conflicts from the highest political leadership of this nation will no doubt boost the business and credibility of the field of conflict management.

Susan Macey, Denver CO   11/13/08
Well said! President-elect Obama represents hope on many levels for many people. Although many have and will continue to criticize him for being "weak", the fear mongers did not succeed this time!

Bob O'Donnell, Woodstock VT  BobODonnell!     11/13/08
Bravo, Robert! Thank you for your eloquent words on the hope Obama represents for the US of A, the World, and our field of negotiation and mediation.

Hopeful    11/12/08
Obama's words from his speech on Election Eve in Grant Park point to his potential to demonstrate competence in the face of conflict. Quote: "There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree." To the extent that this attitude/behavior may "trickle down" we will be better off.

Richard  , Flushing MI   11/12/08
Ralph Waldo Emerson remarked that:A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. I submit that President-Elect Obama's abandonment of his prior position on accepting public campaign financing is in fact consistent with Mr. Benjamin's thesis that the protean mediator/political leader thinks in a systemic rather than linear manner. If the goal is to get a deal/win an election then it is appropriate to revise the "battle plan" if it appears not to be leading to the desired result. We are all acutely aware that negotiation often locks-up because one party has publicly taken a position and feels compelled to defend it (and him or herself) even in the face of new data that demonstrates that such position will be unacceptable to the other party and will prevent the first party from getting a negotiated settlement which they know would be in their best interest. History demonstrates, I submit, that principled flexibility is a quality of most successful negotiators and most successful statesmen. We can all think of political leaders who have steadfastly maintained a course of action long after the evidence has established the ineffectiveness of such action. Most wars, I suggest, tragically involve such "consistency". I agree with Mr. Benjamin that President Obama will hopefully model a new and better national response to conflict resolution.

Larry , Lodi CA   11/12/08
campaign finance
Barack Obama's attitude toward negotiation may best be illustrated by his pledge to aggressively pursue a negotiated agreement with John McCain on the topic of public financing of the general election campaign.