At the heights of American commerce, the spokesperson has been a centerpiece even more than the invention has. Whether it was the road salesman shilling fake elixirs, or Henry Ford changing transportation forever, the businessman with a plan to sell and the image to match has long been a public fascination. Donald Trump, John D. Rockefeller, John Jacob Astor, Michael Jordan, and Oprah Winfrey all became as recognizable for their personalities as for the items they sold. In contemporary culture especially, where Blacks were generally refused the access to distribution of service industries, athletes, actors and religious figures had to make their bold step into commercial dominance with their performance. Michael Jordan never sold his sneakers as much as his excellence on the court. In that way, his name came to represent Greatness. Oprah Winfrey had her hands on the wheels of distribution for her media, but it was her gracious smile and easy manner that welcomed her into pop culture permanence. That’s not to say that style wins over substance, but when faced with the realities of deeply harbored racial resentment, Black businesses either had to thrive in spite of it, or nuance the racial fears into public enjoyment to reach wealth. Barack Obama has used this model to create an impenetrable brand seal in a time where names, labels and associations mean (nearly) everything. His only failure thus far is building an impossible expectation that requires he appease the imaginations of vastly different groups. When policy discussions and moral questions become intractable, he will have less firepower to convince the masses of his prudent judgment. Until then, let us prepare for an influx of new cash from the Obama brand. From Barack to Michelle to Malia and Sasha, we will see the immediate economic upswing of an Obama presidency.
7. Street corner hustlers, mom and pop vendors, and self-made businesses – In every neighborhood across America, the 44th President’s face is the symbol of a new era. It’s also the great new method for hawking t-shirts of every color and variety; calendars; wall hangings; books and anything else bearing his name or image. Barack Obama has conjured the ethos of the “change” emotion to sell his message, and cunning entrepreneurs have run with it to every corner. At New York tourism stands, the Obama insignias engulf passersby with a flurry of color and flapping. You can get your Obama winter cap now, and purchase your Obama sun visor for later. There’s no end to the iterations of his image, or his image paired with civil rights heroes, or his image paired with an athlete’s. He is a symbol of anything that we want him to be. Few have reached that echelon of universality, although many have sought it.
6. Women love him – Barack Obama has the kind of austere intellectualism that’s rare in any setting, and the easygoing smooth talk to make him at home among the people. But it’s not his swagger that attracts his droves of female admirers, it’s his responsibility. He has been an honorable servant of his marriage, a public force and a thoughtful philosopher. So naturally, as he takes a leadership position to match his iconic appeal, women from all walks will be looking for his example in the consumer market. And because Michelle Obama has been his teammate through incredible surges and unmentionable challenges, many will empathize with the First Lady’s loyalty to him. Already, Michelle Obama has been dubbed the fashion plate for women everywhere, but more importantly women will tune in to hear her ideas about public service, community involvement and lasting relationships. Add that to the fact that the Obamas are raising young women in full view of the United States, taking care to provide for them the best in emotional guidance. Hopefully with this example, other men will follow suit to endorse the complete support of women in their lives, relatives or not.
5. He’s written books – Now, the presidential memoir is no new phenomenon. Almost every one of our 44 leaders has left extensive writing to plumb through. But, not everyone has the emblematic prose that inspires others to write and to read. Our most effective presidents, across all classes, were those who could turn their ideological pondering into accessible language without having to distill their strongest imaginative currents. In “Dreams from My Father” Obama discovered his voice as a great American writer, mining and describing his childhood events for any relevant idioms. The best-seller President signifies a shift from the anti-reading, anti-knowledge politics of past terms. That Barack Obama aggressively reinvented the political memoir from self-serving fluff to crucial manifesto is an indicator that we are experiencing the change in thinking that begets innovation rather than stagnation. That’s hardly accounting for the volumes of pages in interpretive historical books that will feature Barack Obama as the main figure. It will be a good decade for the written word, which has suffered from inattention and sterility since major publishing entities crumbled with their cousins in industry.
4. The world likes doing business with an Open America – It’s not enough to have the strongest standing military in the world. To become a business giant of lasting influence, the country has to share and to lend. For years, we have ruled by force and intimidation. Worse still, where we were not players in manufacturing, we spent on foreign goods regardless of quality. The U.S. has held price control over the heads of our neighboring countries, using alliances with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to force out smaller competitors. However judicious it seemed to practice business from a defensive stance, it utterly chilled relations with nations like Venezuela and Cuba whose contributions could have boosted our domestic product and our cultural riches.
3. The return of ethics – The faulty regulation and wishful thinking of the private sector has led to the unavoidable deflation of our economy. Creditors could have said no to unsure loans. Mortgage companies could have capped their number of subprime agreements to only include a small number of high-risk default candidates. CEOs could have accepted less pay, accepted budget shortfalls as market reality rather than as illusion. Consumers could have bought smaller cars, efficient bulbs and less junk. But, we did not. We stared into the moral vacuum of collective chaos and said, “Yes we can.” As affirmative as Barack Obama’s election motto was, it must be put aside for more prudent axioms. No we can’t lie to ourselves about broken banking. No we can’t take out that extra loan to pay down past debts. No we can’t shun the obligations of accounting and transparency. Obama has succeeded, for the time, in convincing both parties that this idea must be enforced if the future holds some promise. The more our leaders take a realistic, compassionate view of business, the more we promote free labor and fair competition.
2. Techno-Barack – Barack Obama is a technocrat waiting to show himself. During his meetings with Google CEO’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, he asked copious questions about the direction of the country as it relates to the internet. China and India have far surpassed the pockets of Silicon Valley and New York where U.S. technology thrived. In fact, technologies that are commonplace in the Eastern Hemisphere metro areas have yet to hit American soil. He has unleashed a plan for the stimulus that includes improving roads and bridges, but beneath all that will be a plan to improve technology at the rate that outdoes rival nations. Put simply, America has a lot of catching up to do considering the size of the workforce, and the health care and educational needs we can address with faster digital connections. The same way all television sets will be bound to digital feeds, schools should be equipped with a minimum number of computer stations. Our banks, libraries and hospitals must invite the advancements of the new millennium, and government should ease the process with tax incentives for those who do.
1. He’s Black – For historical reasons, it’s hard to overstate the significance of one man’s race in this position. The myriad positive effects from the realization of a once-impossible vision are ineffable at best. We can count with certainty the increase in Black consumer involvement and Black political involvement. The real test will be if the visual confirmation of equality will be enough to motivate Black people who had abandoned that dream at one point. Black women and men have prized consumer culture for years as an expression of rejected style from banished people: green spent could be the great equalizer, we thought. No matter the power of a dollar, the ramifications of cultural infringement were much too deep to overcome any advantages granted by wealth. This nation is one of many that will enjoy a resplendent moment as its darker people see the promise of another existence. Immeasurable changes are afoot, and Barack Obama is the vessel for those. If Blacks across the world see him as even the potential for success, that is more than they could have hoped for in the recent past.