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.