Presidential Service

On Tuesday, January 20, I was a part of history. I went to the inauguration of Barack Obama, our country’s first black President. I was expecting momentous, I was expecting excitement, I was expecting cold, and I was expecting crowds. What caught me by surprise was the courtesy. From the moment I stepped onto the metro, I noticed that people were being more aware—and courteous—of their fellow man. This idea of “coming together,” although it sounds a bit cliché, was in action. Was it just the day? This moment that we were excited to share? Or was it more?

After much reflection, I think it was—I think it is—more. I think it is born out of a hope renewed and a leader who has called upon us to serve, in whatever way we can, our country, our community, our neighbors. I think that President Obama has taken President Kennedy’s famous quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” and made it personal. As in, what can you do every day that will make those who come in contact with you better off for having had that interaction? And isn’t that the key to great service? After all, a true willingness to help is the parent of exceptional service.

So, as President Obama begins to serve us as our country’s Commander in Chief, has he also ushered in a new era of service? As a man who believes in service to others, and, to a certain degree, credits that belief with his success, is President Obama transforming the way we interact and do business? Will service switch from transactional to transcendental?

I don’t have the answer. And I know President Obama is not the first President to encourage community service. But he may be the first recent President who understands that even in holding the highest office of the land, you are still a public servant. And the American people are not easy clients—we expect the best service possible. Time will tell, but I think supreme service delivery—on every level—is about to become cool again. And people may start being a bit nicer to each other. An unexpected—but long-awaited—bonus.

I want to hear from you! Respond to one, all or none of the questions below. I just want to hear your thoughts!

  • Do you agree? Do you think President Obama has the power and influence to usher in a new era in service delivery?
  • Have you experienced more courtesy or better service since the inauguration?
  • Have you experienced a decline in service since the inauguration?