Obama, Clinton, Cory Booker, and Self-Actualization

by phil on Friday Mar 28, 2008 1:47 PM

I'm thinking a lot about self-actualization these days. Self-actualization is the idea that each of us has our hidden potentials, and that our purpose in life is to actualize or realize those potentials. This is based on a certain definition or strategy for finding meaning and purpose. If you look at a knife, and you look at its sharp corrugated edges, you can see that it is meant for cutting. Self-Actualization theory states that we can inspect ourselves, and simply realize that we should be maximizing and utilizing our god-given talents.

I've been thinking a lot about self-actualization with regard to Obama, Hillary Clinton, and now Cory Booker. Cory Booker is an African-American mayor of Newark, New Jersey. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2002 (which was documented in the Academy Award-nominated documentary Street Fight). He graduated with a B.A. from Stanford, he's a Rhodes Scholar, an Ivy League lawyer, and he's a charismatic speaker. Sounds like Obama right?

In 2002, an opportunity opened up for Booker. Scandal forced Senator Robert Torricelli to withdraw from his 2002 U.S. Senate reelection race. Booker was approached to replace him on the ballot. If Booker had accepted and won, he would have entered the Senate as its only black member, two years ahead of Obama! Booker instead, on the night of losing the 2002 Mayoral Race, decided to stay in Newark and run for re-election the next time around.

Two years later, though, Obama got his lucky break when scandal hit Jack Ryan. Remember Jack Ryan, who it was later revealed, nagged his wife about going to crazy sex clubs? Well Ryan was forced to drop out, and Obama went up against Alan Keyes and won in a landslide. Obama then moved up from being a state legislator to Senator.

When reflecting back, Booker said this, "I wasn't in this for a political position, I was in it for a sense of personal purpose. I would betray myself if it became just about a quick rise."

The following picture encapsulates all of what I said above. The double handshake, Booker's closed-lip smile, Obama's look of childish wonderment.

-- New Yorker

Now let's talk about Obama and Hillary.

I remember an interesting article, I think it was on Slate or Salon, that talked about how Hillary didn't comport herself like a peaceful warrior while as Obama was calm and cool (It's similar to Slate's Why voters pick Bugs Bunny over Daffy Duck). And I think this probably has something to do with self-actualization.

I think Obama focuses less on winning the election "by any means necessary." He seems genuinely interested in some sort of personal or spiritual fulfillment. It seems he's trying to develop his ideas, inspire people, build unity, etc. He's focused on tasks that he can control.

It could be because Obama is young and so he has the long-view. He's thinking, "Well, how will this help my political career in general?" While as Clinton may be thinking, "I only got one and maybe another shot at this, and then that's it!" But look at John McCain. I'd say that McCain is a little more relaxed than Hillary and he's 72 years old! But perhaps that's because he's grown weary from having lost so many times in so many elections, that he's just happy to still be around talking to people who will listen.

Either way, Obama, Booker, or McCain's focus on intrinsic goals is helping them in some way. And if none of them achieves further political success, they are in some ways actualizing themselves.

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