Episode 82 - Joseph Ellis : Obama Inauguration – Transformational Moment in Historical Perspective
“For human evolution to continue, the conversation must deepen.” – Margaret Mead
In my prior Dialogue 81 with my friend Angeles Arrien, leading cross-cultural anthropologist of our time, we gave examples of our collective ability to ignite and energize liberating transformational shifts – co-creating mutually empowering and sustaining event stories and planetary understandings through dialogue and cultivating an open-minded appreciation, curiosity, respect, and practicality. These examples of transformational “miracles” that have occurred in our time included the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, the freeing of Nelson Mandela and the end of apartheid in South Africa, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the elimination of other barriers that were assumed to be permanent polarizing aspects of our world.
In this dialogue with Joseph Ellis, the “Founders’ historian”, I add the example of the evolutionary shift in planetary consciousness that has occurred in many aspects with the campaign of Barack Obama, and his election and Inauguration as President of the United States – an event celebrated throughout the world. Joe and I describe the “electro-magnetic field” that manifested and resulted in the unprecedented and miraculous gathering of over 2 million people (myself among them) on the Mall in Washington, D.C., without a single arrest or act of violence.
We also put President Obama’s Inaugural Address in historical perspective, illuminating the links to ancestral heritage and present healings and inspiration, expressing the foundation for a realistic and practical hope for our future. In his own words: “What the cynics fail to understand it that the ground has shifted beneath them – that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply….We cannot help but believe that the old hatreds will someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that, as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself.”
See also my prior Programs 38 and 39 on this site with Joseph Ellis -- in which our dialogue reveals new historical insights and perspective of Barack’s role during the campaign exemplifying the lineage of Washington, Lincoln, FDR, and JFK, in whose presidencies “out of the many we are one” was paramount.
“Dialogue is the Language of Evolutionary Transformation”™.
Contact me if you like at www.livingdialogues.com. Visit my blog at Duncan.personallifemedia.com. ”. (For more, including information on the Engaged Elder Wisdom Dialogue Series on my website www.livingdialogues.com, click on Episode Detail to the left above and go to Transcript section.)
Among others, programs you will find of interest on these themes are my Dialogues on this site with Ted Sorensen, David Boren, David Mendell, and Angeles Arrien, among others [click on their name(s) in green on right hand column of the Living Dialogues Home Page on this site].
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“Duncan Campbell, I heard about your podcast a few months ago, and have been deeply listening to all the dialogues with your fantastic friends/guests. Your words, ideas, and wisdom are truly inspirational. You have evoked a new appetite for knowledge in me that I hope to share with a starving younger generation. Thank you for doing what you do, and creating a unique space, void of boundaries and classification. A breath of fresh air! Much love and respect.” – Amit Kapadiya
In furtherance of creating and maintaining the planetary dialogues now required in the 21st century, I featured a special series of dialogues with myself and other elders in the weeks leading up to and including the 2008 Olympics hosted by China and the U.S. 2008 elections. Those dialogues can be listened to separately on this site or as gathered as a series on my website www.livingdialogues.com under the collective title “Engaged Elder Wisdom Dialogues”. They address various specific political aspects of our planetary crisis, with its dangers and opportunities for creating and sustaining a visionary and evolutionary shift. (We remember that the Chinese character for “crisis” is often described as meaning both “danger” when visioned from a fear perspective, and “opportunity” when visioned from a wisdom perspective.)
In all my Living Dialogues from their inception I talk in various ways about the call to generate dialogues across generational, ethnic, gender, and national boundaries -- building bridges of understanding and wisdom in the cooperative spirit and reaching out -- required by our 21st century realities, and the essential roles that we all are called to play in our evolution for it to take place.
This is the time for renewed dialogue, for visionary and inspiring discourse producing practical and innovative ways of living and sharing together, to engage our own elder wisdom and youthful inspiration, and in so doing to experience and exemplify that “Dialogue is the Language of Evolutionary Transformation”™.
And that is what we all do, in our mutual roles as host, deep listeners, and guests, when we gather together here from all parts of the globe in Living Dialogues.
SUBSCRIBE HERE FOR FREE TO LIVING DIALOGUES AND IN THE COMING WEEKS HEAR DUNCAN CAMPELL’S DIALOGUES WITH OTHER GROUND-BREAKING TRANSFORMATIONAL THINKERS LISTED ON THE WEBSITE WWW.LIVINGDIALOGUES.COM. TO LISTEN TO PREVIOUS RELATED DIALOGUES ON THIS SITE, SCROLL DOWN ON THE LIVING DIALOGUES SHOW PAGE HERE -- OR CLICK ON THE NAME OF A GUEST ON THE LIST AT THE RIGHT -- TO HEAR DUNCAN’S DIALOGUES WITH DR. ANDREW WEIL, BRIAN WEISS, COLEMAN BARKS, RUPERT SHELDRAKE, LARRY DOSSEY, JUDY COLLINS, MARIANNE WILLIAMSON, MATTHEW FOX, JOSEPH CHILTON PEARCE, DEEPAK CHOPRA, BYRON KATIE AND STEPHEN MITCHELL, CAROLINE MYSS, GANGAJI, VINE DELORIA, JR., MICHAEL DOWD (THE UNIVERSE STORY OF THOMAS BERRY AND BRIAN SWIMME), STEVE MCINTOSH, FRANCES MOORE LAPPE, STANISLAV GROF, RICHARD TARNAS, MARC BEKOFF AND JANE GOODALL, RICHARD MOSS, PAUL HAWKEN, PAUL RAY, JOSEPH ELLIS, DUANE ELGIN, LYNNE MCTAGGART, ECKHART TOLLE, MICHAEL MEADE, ANGELES ARRIEN, SOBONFU SOME. TED SORENSEN, ROBERT THURMAN, DAVID MARANISS, DAVID BOREN, GEORGE LAKOFF, TOM HAYDEN, JAY INSLEE, BRACKEN HENDRICKS, BOB GOUGH, VAN JONES, BARBARA MARX HUBBARD, LESTER BROWN, DAVID MENDELL, DEBORAH TANNEN, JOHN GRAY, ARI BERK, SUSAN JACOBY, AND OTHER EVOLUTIONARY THINKERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD.
The best way to reach me is through my website: www.livingdialogues.com. Many thanks again for your attentive deep listening in helping co-create this program.
All the best, Duncan.
P.S. As a way of further acknowledging and appreciating your part in these dialogues, and since I cannot personally answer all of them, I have begun to publish from time to time in these pages some of the appreciations received from you.
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Duncan Campbell: From time immemorial, beginning with indigenous councils and ancient wisdom traditions through the work of western visionaries, such as Plato, Galileo, and quantum physicist David Bohm, mutually participatory dialogue has been seen as the key to evolving and transforming consciousness, evoking a flow of meaning - a dia (flow) of logos (meaning) - beyond what any one individual can bring through alone. So join us now, as together with you, the active deep listener, we evoke and engage in Living Dialogues.
Welcome to the program. I'm your host, Duncan Campbell. With me for this particular program, I'm again truly delighted to have as my guest a founder-historian. He's known or called with that title by The New York Review of Books having won the Pulitzer Prize. for his book, “Founding Brothers.” He won the National Book Award for his book on Thomas Jefferson entitled, “American Sphinx,” and an excellent book, I must say, almost with the same title, on “His Excellency: George Washington.”
Most recently, he is the author of “American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies.” In my view, it’s the single, most accessible, and deepest text on the complexities of our nation’s founding, the talks about – among other things – the two original scenes of America that George Washington wanted to heal but was unable to in the historical circumstance. That is the way we treated the native Americans and slavery, how we treated the African-Americans, and giving an illumination of where we are now as well.
So, with that, I'd like to introduce my guest, Joseph Ellis. Joe, it's always a real treat to have you here in this dialogues.
Joseph Ellis: It's always great to be with you and with your audience.
Duncan Campbell: Barack Obama is the topic of this conversation and this dialogue. Barack Obama: past, present, and future. We want to, I think, begin by focusing on his inaugural address. The way he introduced himself, finally, as the one President at a time when it was his turn at noon on January 20. He introduced himself to the country and the world with an inaugural address that had been much anticipated by everyone including yourself, specifically, as an expert in this area. You had been called upon as a commentator in 2004 when the last President, the outgoing President, made his inaugural address. You have read all the inaugural addresses of previous Presidents in your historical research.
Joseph Ellis: That’s true, it's a real [xx], and it's not a particularly distinguished genre, but there are few raisins in the dough. I was anticipating that Barack Obama’s inaugural might very well become one of the ones that were very memorable. You were there and heard it in person, I was watching on television from, believe it or not, Palm Beach, Florida. My initial feeling was some disappointment because he didn’t have the rhetorical [xx] and swings that I had expected. But really, as he went on, I've came to realize he was not intending to speak to the ages. He was really intending to speak to the moment. I think that if you sit and read it, it's really, really a profound statement. In some sense, it has more of an impact as a read document than as a speech.
Duncan Campbell: It’s very interesting that you say that because I felt the same. Even though I was there in, we might say, this huge transformational moment, the inaugural moment. I was within maybe 200 yards of the stage, in the Congressional Guest Area with an intimate crowd of other Congressional guests numbering 240,000 of us. It was approximately the same amount of people that had listened to Martin Luther King’s great speech in 1963. So, this time, it was dwarfed by the number of people that were on the Mall. It extended all the way from the west side of the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial estimated at over 2 million. It is approximately 10 times the amount of people that had been there in front of the Lincoln Memorial, at the other end, listening to Martin Luther King.
But his presence was very much in the air. Martin Luther King Day had been celebrated the very day before. Yet, I have to say that in that environment, as electric as it was, it was really characterized more by a feeling of, I think, real unity and good feeling and warmth and openness among all the people present. In the area where I was listening, the Congressional Guest Area, by definition, all 535 members of Congress had been allotted a same number of tickets. So everyone around me was, literally, from a different part of the country. All races, all genders, parents with children, elderly, people with canes, and so on.
It really was a portrait of America. Yet, listening to him, only two or three phrases caught my attention, you might say, that stood out. But when I read the speech, just as you say, I thought it was an extraordinarily profound and eloquent document. We note, Joe, there's a recent article on inauguration addresses in The New Yorker from last week. Originally, inaugural addresses were really meant to be read. They were hardly ever heard by any large audience of citizens. There was one example of even an address that had been attended by 8,000 people. But, because of the lack of broadcast facilities, which we take for granted…
Joseph Ellis: It didn’t have amplification.
Duncan Campbell: …people couldn’t hear a word. So really, the documents, in a sense, are best incorporated when read.
Joseph Ellis: The Jefferson’s first inaugural, which is one of the best, was delivered in, at least, so low that nobody could hear it at all. The members of the press were following it in the text that he had provided beforehand. So, it was almost a read document as he was delivering.
Duncan Campbell: So, I think, here, one of the things that stands out when we do read the text of this inaugural address, in a sense, it really is, in my view, one for the ages. It is, I think, something that is really masterful in the sense that he touches on the issues of the present moment, as you say. But it's very far from a catalogue of policy issues and policy wonking[sp] even though he does address each of the major issues of our time. But his very first sentence, he says, “My fellow citizens, I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.”
So, right there, in the very first sentence, he is acknowledging that we do stand in an ancestral lineage. Really, if we think of it, going back well beyond that of the founding fathers and our nation itself. He, himself, of course, incorporates in his own DNA, literally, a global, we might say, lineage going back to the first inhabitants of the planet that came from Africa originally. Then, at the very end of his speech, he does quote, “Not the obvious choice – given his own temperament and his association with Abraham Lincoln and his having taken the oath of office for the first time, since Lincoln, on Lincoln’s own bible – but he quotes George Washington. You and I, when we spoke yesterday, you thought that was – and I agreed – very significant.
For full transcript, please contact Duncan Campbell