Rousing Speech by President Sarkozy (Toulon, Sept 25 2008)

President Nicolas Sarkozy made a startlingly strong speech tonight (September 25, 2008) in Toulon, at the Zenith, in front of 4,000 people. His speech was marked by personal engagement & responsibility, a bold acknowledgment of the unpopularity of certain of his decisions as well as an unveiled description of the risks of the current economic crisis. The crisis, he said, is a reason to accelerate the reforms rather than postpone them.

Nicolas Sarkozy spoke of reformulating the capitalist model à la française — with a grand reduction of the bureaucracy and the elimination of 30,600 state jobs in 2009 (including a diminution of the number of local collectivities), a reform of the educational institutions (-13,500 jobs) as well as the hospitals (with a system of rewards for heightened productivity). Sarkozy also proclaimed the demineralization of the golden parachutes for corporate heads.

In a certain way, I am inclined to call his form of capitalism as Lime Capitalism — a little green, that is. Clearly, Sarkozy is looking to refurbish the right to be an entrepreneur in France and, at the same time, indicated that the State has a role in accelerating the transition to greener solutions (via the incentive of “bonus/malus”). And, as a marker of his desire for a more rapid, effective action, he asked whether Europe would be capable of taking as strong a stance and as rapidly as Treasury Secretary Paulson (left) did in demanding the controversial $700 billion bailout. Sarkozy affirmed, meanwhile, the protection of the savings of all French people should the banking bankruptcies cross the Atlantic.

As a baseline for his lime capitalism, Sarkozy said (and I translate), “If we should tax less investment, tax less work, penalize less effort and success, and tax less one’s own products, one should on the other hand tax pollution.”

Echoing many of his initial messages and promises of his presidential campaign, Sarkozy seemed confident, serious and engaged. My favourite line from his speech was: “The current crisis should prompt us to rebuild the foundations of capitalism on the ethics of effort and work, to find a balance between freedom and rules, and between collective and individual responsibility.” In sum, he was pleading for a new balance between the state and the [free] market.

What I enjoyed most about the speech was the way he took responsibility for his decisions. Rare is the boss that takes such leadership on his government’s policies and pronounce so clearly a personal engagement on the results. I would describe Sarkozy’s Toulon speech, written by his favourite plume, Henri Guaino, as a model way to stand up in the face of difficult times — in stark contrast to Senator John McCain’s approach I might add of putting on hold his campaign — and a way to rally the French people and businesses behind him.

Here is an executive transcript of the speech with some analysis, thanks to 20minutes.fr. And if you want the full monty, it is now out, here — here thanks to Le Monde.

And how did/do you react to Sarkozy’s speech?

Role Model for Obama, McCain and myself

Statue of Liberty by Andy WarholWe all need a role model. Call it a (Wo-)Man’s Condition.* I have found this true for me in life as well as in work. Among other things, a role model or icon helps to inspire you and shape your response to unknown situations; and it is in those moments that people can become bigger than life. But, for me, my icon is somewhat fragmented. Depending on the subject (spiritual, leadership, sports…), sometimes it is one singular person, sometimes it is a composition, and sometimes it is fictional. And what is true for the ordinary layperson is also true of the big leaders, corporate, humanitarian or political: we all need a role model.

Any politician that is wanting to make a name for him or herself normally will have identified a few icons to look up to. These icons can serve as models for behaviour, benchmarks for how to construct a career, make a speech or set an agenda. And there is no dearth of choice of big name leaders in the past.

Teddy RooseveltMoving to the US Presidential campaign, for Senator McCain, you tend to think he is anti-iconic to the extent he is the maverick, not that there has never been a maverick before. All the same, McCain apparently takes stock from Teddy Roosevelt (see this article by Jill Zuckman from Chron.com).

I have been wondering, meanwhile, at the comparisons drawn between Senator Obama (D) and President Abraham Lincoln (R). Certainly, there are many articles, blogs and chat rooms that have taken up this story. The fact that Obama made his coming out speech (announcing he would run for President) in front of the Old State Capitol where Abraham Lincoln served as a legislator has no small part in beginning this thread.President Abraham Lincoln

Here is recap of the similarities between Obama and Lincoln:

* they both came from humble backgrounds in Illinois
* both were lawyers
* served 8 years in the Illinois State Legislature
* 1 term in Congress
* neither served in the military
* and race is clearly a defining part of their Presidential campaign.

This television report from CBS, with an interview of Professor Daniel Weinberg from Illinois, discusses some of the similarities between Obama and Lincoln.

However, this NYT article by Michael Cohen prefers to compare Obama to Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist leader (not to be mixed up with Stephen Douglas, Lincoln’s opponent in the 1860 election campaign). Douglass, ironically, was more commonly known as a critic of Lincoln, although, as Cohen writes, Douglass, in the latter part of his life, also openly lauded Lincoln.
There are two lines that I wish to reproduce here from Cohen’s article. He writes that, what may define Obama’s presidency if he wins, is: “one campaigns in poetry but governs in prose.” And, secondly, I also enjoyed the last line of Cohen’s article: [If Obama wins in November, he will likely look to] “…prove the elder Mr. Douglass correct by seeking out the proper balance between what is right and what is possible.”

It is interesting to note that Douglass was nominated as VP of the first ever woman US presidential candidate, Victoria Woodhull in 1872. Douglass refused the nomination. It should also be said that there is controversy as to whether Woodhull was actually a legitimate candidate (age, not on the ballot, etc.).

Lord Henry Temple Palmerston, 3rd ViscountIn any event, if I were to choose my own political icons, in no particular order, I personally would cite Prime Minister Winston Churchill — the right person for a difficult time. Secondly, I would view NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a good maverick icon to look up to — anyone that brings ethical business sense to politics is good news. Thirdly, I would like to mention Rudy Giuliani for his leadership pre- and post-9/11. Fourth, I would have to cite Mahatma Ghandi — proof that a single individual can move a mountain. And lastly, going further back in time, I am inclined to think of Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, the master of brinksmanship. But, in each case, what they stand for is hugely contextual. You need to find the right pitch for the times. Not that I am running for President (I cannot as I was born overseas), but it is a good exercise to stop and think over who your role model(s) is (are).

And who are your role models in business, politics or life?

____
*Not to be mixed up with Malraux’s La Condition Humaine.

If the world could vote … they would vote Obama

If the world could vote in the next US Presidential Election…it would be a landslide

My friend Rodrigo (obrigado) sent me this link and I feel a compulsion to share it.

Below is a snapshot of a poll taken from over 49,000 people around the world currently casting their vote online. Many of the countries, granted have scant coverage, but in the mass, the results are quite remarkable. Naturally, the 122 million or so Americans who vote (as in 2004), the local of issues of economics, health care, education, etc., are not on the radar for the rest of the world. And, like any poll, it is only “intentional”. Moreover, you don’t see any abstentions or undecided. Nonetheless, the question is whether the international “vote” has any impact — and the answer is unfortunately no. Middle America is not preoccupied with the point of view of the rest of the world — too much like the current Administration.

In this poll, incidentally, there is presumably an nonrepresentational vote from 9,129 people (18% of the total in this online survey) in the USA, who are 80% in favour of Obama. That said, the role of the internet is increasing in every political campaign, so it will be interesting to review the numbers of the below poll as we get closer to the real vote — and more emphatically to follow how viral messages start to circulate to galvanize support within the US electorate.

http://iftheworldcouldvote.com/results as of September 20, 2008 at 8am Paris Time.

Barack Obama 85.6% (41,987 votes)
John McCain 14.4% (7,059 votes)

Total number of votes: 49,046
Countries voted from: 149

Countries with a reasonably significant number of voters (ie above 60) where the proportion selecting McCain is higher include:

Czech Republic 42%
Venezuela 33%
Poland 28%
And, it would seem that the former USSR states are a little more right wing.

Another notion that is striking in this online survey are the countries with the largest number of voters (absolute numbers as of this morning).

Poland 7213, Spain 5283, Portugal 4493, France 2870, Iceland 2832, Canada 2058, Iran 1588….Israel 48 (and split 50-50).

Below is what it would look like if the world could vote in the presidential election, with the blue for Obama and the red for McCain.


A few others blogging on the same topic:
Paper Blog (Franco-English)
Boboleechronicles
BlackManx

Or again on Facebook: If the world could vote