January 20, 2009, marked the beginning of a new presidency. Did it also mark the beginning of a new political era in America? President Obama promised to “change Washington,” to offer “a new kind of politics,” and to be a “transformational” president. Obama looks to Lincoln, FDR, and Ronald Reagan as models of transformative leadership. It is always wise to look to history for exemplary models as well as to avoid the mistakes of the past. But it may be an error to understand the promise and pitfalls of the present moment by analogizing them to these seemingly similar moments in the past. This talk will look at what type of transformational leader Obama is or is trying to become, how this may redefine the description of transformational leadership, and how does he compare to Lincoln, FDR and Ronald Reagan in this regard.
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