When I was a young child, my parents gave me a children's bible that had illustrated pictures of biblical stories. One of my favorite characters in the bible was King David. I would pour over stories of his adventures and imagine him slaying Goliath or battling Saul. When I was much older I began to read the adult bible.
This was a much different David. He did many of the same things I loved in the children's bible, but he has many faults as a human being. He was seen as one of the greatest kings in jewish and Christian history but his good points were sometimes outweighed by his bad points. One of the stories that stayed with me from the adult David was his pursuit of Bathsheba and how he had sent one of his most loyal men to die in order to have her.
When this happened, a prophet named Nathan came in to see him and told a story about a man who had one sheep. This man nutured his sheep, took care of the sheep from infancy, and it was his most prized possession. One day a rich man who had many sheeps came and stole the one sheep that the poor man possessed and left him destitute.
David became angry and demanded that the rich man who had done this deed should be brought to him and punished. Then Nathan looked at David, pointed to him, and said that David was the rich man who had stolen the poor man's only sheep and David was dismayed and wept at his wrongness.
So why am I telling this story?
When Lincoln was a leader he had abolitionists as his prophets, warning him of the danger of letting down those enslaved and those without freedom. They were his Nathan telling him of the stolen sheep.
When Roosevelt was a leader he had labor unions to poke at him to make sure he was working for them. They were his Nathan telling him of the stolen sheep.
When JFK/LBJ were dealing, and quite frankly, somewhat whaffling on civil rights they had MLK Jr and other civil rights leaders reminding them that the injustices of the people were more important than electoral success. They were their Nathan telling them of stolen sheep.
Barack Obama is a leader not a prophet. He is not infalliable though he is incredibly smart and has a pretty good ear for things. He is gifted in ways that many other politicians would kill for. He had pretty good instinct for the flavor of the general electorate.
But he's not a prophet. He can't speak truth to power because he is the power. The difference between a failed Obama presidency and a successful Obama presidency is us. We are the change we've been waiting for.
That doesn't mean we need to be his enemies. It doesn't mean we have to be his blind followers either. We must be like Nathan in knowing that he has to hear about himself but he does not need to be thrown out with the wolves. I think he can be worked with. I think that we have a lot more in common with him than what we disagree with. And I think we can change his mind on things we disagree with by agitation and pointing out the flaws in his logic when he fails.
I think that is why we as a community haven't really gotten anywhere in a really long time. I think changing over congress and electing Obama have been the biggest victories we have had in a long time. We have to know when to to say things bluntly and when to take it lightly. We have to know when to give straight prophecy and when to let action do the talking.
Obama isn't necessarily here to lead us, we are here to lead him.