We evolve and paradigms change. Yesterday we told you about the growing movement to change the workweek, but the nature of work isn’t the only
change. I never thought I’d refer to an article by Peggy Noonan, but
in a recent Wall Street Journal she opined about The End of Placeness.
The end of placeness is one of the features of the campaign. I do not like it.
Pretend you are not a political sophisticate and regular watcher of the presidential race as it unfolds on all media platforms. Pretend, that is, that you are normal.
OK, quick, close your eyes. Where is Barack Obama from?
He’s from Young. He’s from the town of Smooth in the state of Well Educated. He’s from TV.
John McCain? He’s from Military. He’s from Vietnam Township in the Sunbelt state.
Chicago? That’s where Mr. Obama wound up. Modern but Midwestern: a perfect place to begin what might become a national career. Arizona? That’s where Mr. McCain settled, a perfect place from which to launch a more or less conservative career in the 1980s.
This is a change from what we’re used to.
Neither man has or gives a strong sense of place in the sense that
American politicians almost always have, since Mr. Jefferson of
Virginia, and Abe Lincoln of Illinois, and FDR of New York, and JFK of
Massachusetts. Even Bill Clinton was from a town called Hope, in
Arkansas, even if Hope was really Hot Springs. And in spite of his New
England pedigree, George W. Bush was a Texan, as was, vividly, LBJ.
But they are still "from" something:
Mr. McCain of course was a Navy brat. He bounced around, as members of
the families of our military must, and wound up for a time in the
suburbs of Washington. Mr. Obama’s mother was somewhat itinerant, in
search of different climes. He was born in Hawaii, which Americans on
the continent don’t experience so much as a state as a destination, a
place of physical beauty and singular culture. You go there to escape
and enjoy. Then his great circling commenced: Indonesia, back to
Hawaii, on to the western coast of America, then to the eastern coast,
New York and Cambridge.
Messrs. Obama and McCain are not from a place, but from an experience.
It’s a different world. As someone who was born in Mississippi but only lived there for a year,
then has also lived for relatively short periods of time in Texas,
Peru, Kansas, Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, California, Utah, and
now back in California… I understand. When people ask "where are you
from?" I don’t know the answer. I just say "everywhere and nowhere."
Perhaps that’s why one of my favorite quotes, from Winnie the Pooh of
all bears, is:
Wherever I go, there I am!
That’s as close as it gets for me. I feel more at peace here in small-town coastal California, close to the surf and avocado orchards and vineyards, than I ever have. I don’t have deep physical roots, and I know I’m not alone. But I have a wealth of experience. The peculiarities of the South, the desire to explore from growing up overseas, the strength of dealing with Northeast winters, the formality of Boston, the love of the outdoors from Utah, the casual relaxation of the coastal West.
We’re seeing the same when we create our teams and interview new associates. More and more we are understanding the potential value of their experiences as opposed to the simple results they have created.