By: Julie Rosier
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood,
divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the
vast and endless sea.”
- Antoine de Saint Exupéry
Obama has the audacity to hope. He also had the audacity to build a
campaign to run for president. He wanted to see change in America’s
electoral politics and he decided to become that change.
As we hear his story and witness the success of his efforts, a yearning
develops in each of us. Initially, it sounds like a babbling brook
right in our own backyard. “I must be the change,” the trickle of hope
tells us. “We must each build a boat to take us to the beloved sea of
But Obama doesn’t layout an agenda, divide work and give orders. He
makes us yearn to get there.
“Yes, we can,” he says. “You can build just like I did.”
He asks us to look into the mirror and question, “Where does my
yearning come from and what will my boat look like?” We have to spend
time identifying our individual passion, for only the deepest urges
will sustain this self-motivated building project. Only after divining
purpose, will we be ready to face the potential frustrations latent in
the task of translating vision to reality.
But it is in drawing out plans, measuring timelines, and gathering
resources on the ground that our ship will begin to take form. This
will make our vision more substantial and reinforce our initial
intuitive belief that the vast sea is within reach.
As we build, other shipbuilders begin to emerge around us. As more and
more people are drawn to the banks of this movement of hope, we can
pool our resources and skills. Together we build from a more effective
But in order to construct communal boats that float, we must fashion
How can we use the glue of common ground, instead of hammering stakes
of division and animosity? We must learn to sing new work songs instead
of old tunes like “This land is my land. This land ain’t your land. I
got a shotgun and you ain’t got one.”
We must listen to each other’s stories and perspectives, thus building
relationships where we can heal from past shotgun wounds and learn to
trust each other again. These relationships, human vessels, will play
a significant role in our upcoming voyage.
Many people warn Obama, “Your stream of hope is gentle now but what
happens when the waters turn to rapids? You are leading the people
towards shipwrecked watery deaths.”
But the hard work of building will have produced ships that are both
streamlined and sturdy, both flexible and secure. By that time there
will be many boats on many rivers looking out for each other in bad
weather. If under the unfortunate climate of rough waters, a boat is
harmed, passengers will still have their shipbuilding skills and
tools. They will be able to repair the damages and make the boat
Even in the case of death, that yearning will never cease. Springs of
hope will always rise again to carry new boats. The curious young of
future generations will explore and learn from past shipwrecks. Then,
working with new skills, they will devise ways to resurrect the sails
and catch the wind of spirit again.
The natural beauty of the beloved sea of community is breathtaking.
But the journey is also stunning. We must seize this time, by first
envisioning our own particular ship, then rolling up our sleeves to
engage in the dirty business of building. The moment has arrived to
audaciously yearn for the vast and endless sea and to each become the
change to get us there.