A Picture of Priorities

Am in the midst of reading a [long] piece on the state of Washington (re:US Government as it functions in Washington DC) at Vanity Fair and just hit a paragraph that loosed the reins of a bro’s thinking to finding perspective and needed priority towards some of what I understand that happens in government today:

Each evening, before Obama leaves the West Wing, he has a three- or four-minute “wrap” meeting with Rahm Emanuel. The president returns to the residence by 6 or 6:30 p.m. By 8:30 or so, senior White House aides know they can begin expecting e-mails or telephone calls from the president, who reads and works late into the night in his upstairs office in the Treaty Room, adjacent to the Lincoln Bedroom. The one part of the evening that is sacrosanct, if the president is in town, is dinner with his wife and daughters. Even as the president’s travel schedule picks up, in anticipation of the midterm elections, aides told me, he intends to be home for dinner as often as possible. “He had a father who had abandoned him,” Valerie Jarrett says, and “he always wanted to be a present and involved father.” Every night that he is home, he eats with his family in the upstairs dining room. It’s a rare moment of perspective. “When the girls come to the dinner table and they talk about their day,” Jarrett says, “it has nothing to do with the START treaty or health care. They’re not really that interested in his day, because they’re kids. They want him to focus on their day.”

For all of the information that we can have today about the personal lives of our leaders – whether we like their stances or not. It always drives home to me that those people who willingly prioritize aspects of their lives seems to just lead better.

This [simple] window into the life of the President makes me wonder if we have lost our own sense of priority and perspective. I can remember some weeks back, when a friend needed to stay with me for a few days. It was her and her 2yr old daughter. I was happy to open my apartment, but very quickly realized that with a little one around that I would have to change how I approached living, let alone living at home. I couldn’t just sit her in front of a movie, though we enjoyed a few together. And I couldn’t just let her do what she wanted either, I had to establish rules and enforce them as necessary – usually through her mother.

It struck me the last night they were here that we were eating. Mother and daughter sat at my dining room table, prepared to eat together. A plate was made for me, and I initially did not want to leave my work to eat. But, I can recall so clearly the call to sit with them. Give the little girl a picture of what it means to be interested in her for a while. And even if it meant eating slower – which I did that night – to enjoy the moment and see the perspective and priority behind dining together. There’s a maturity in that which I learned that night.

And a maturity in that which should show its face to other aspects of our lives. I think that in looking at the entire picture of what’s going on in Washington, and then getting this small glimpse into the life of President Obama, we can get a healthy respect and appreciation of what it means to not just lead, but do so in a mature fashion.

The man keeps his perspectives towards his family straight. He keeps a long term view towards what will be best for them despite what he’s working on or how he might feel at that moment. Such is a picture that many of us need to see, and then appreciate beyond the dinner table as we work out what priorities and maturity looks like in our other daily tasks.