Kristia Cavere Markarian
My meeting with Obama, and a lesson for Republicans
By Kristia Cavere Markarian
July 2, 2011

Since meeting the President, I can better understand how he was elected.

One week ago, Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Fort Drum, the military base in northern New York that hosts the Army's 10th Mountain Division. His visit came the day after his speech detailing the withdrawal of 32,000 of our soldiers from Afghanistan within the next year.

President Obama's visit to Fort Drum was a logical choice. The 10th Mountain Division was the first unit deployed to Afghanistan in 2001 following the September 11 tragedy, and the unit has had a continuous presence in both that country and Iraq.

His time on the base coincided with the visit of several gold star families. We had gathered to attend Fort Drum's annual Remembrance Ceremony for their fallen soldiers, such as my brother, Sgt. Jonathan Cadavero, a 10th Mountain combat medic who perished in Baghdad in 2007.

After he addressed a group of soldiers who had recently returned home, the President met with fifty-two gold star family members. Having seen him in person, I can now understand how people were so mesmerized by Obama when compared to the cold and seemingly out-of-touch John McCain.

Obama was perfectly at ease as he greeted each family, asked about our soldier, and took official pictures with us. His handshake was warm, he gave hugs freely to the mothers who were crying over the loss of their child, and his demeanor was relaxed and friendly.

As he was exiting, the President shook my hand again. I told him that this past year, I frequently used him as a prominent example to the students I taught. I would remind them that this country has every opportunity for those who will work hard, and I would mention our President as one example of someone who rose above a broken home and being economically disadvantaged.

I observed the reaction of the other gold star families as they met with Barack Obama. I was surprised to see that some of them, who proclaimed to despise Obama's policies and his handling of military affairs, were able to be so charmed by him. It was an example of the power of charisma, and how a person's persona can affect the perception others have of them whether good or ill.

The first lesson for Republicans who are entering the Presidential race: never underestimate the force of charisma. Gone are the days when a candidate can simply state their positions on the issues and expect the voters to diligently do their own research. In this age of emotionalism triumphing over reason, when increasing one's self-esteem is flaunted above all else, people want a leader with a magnetic personality.

More so, they want a candidate who will make them feel good about themselves. Unfortunately, the Democrats have dominated this field as they promise to take care of every need and wish of every voter while hiding the real cost and consequence of having the government pay for and do so much for their citizens. They've used this recipe for success since FDR.

The second lesson for GOP presidential hopefuls: speak in positive affirmations, never negative ones. Again, the Democrats have mastered this. They speak in "yes" to voters: yes we will give you every government benefit imaginable, yes we will take care of your every need, yes we will defend you from all that can harm you. In treating the electorate as constant victims of circumstance, the Democrats become the role of protector and provider.

Republicans need to use the same tactics and state what they are for, not just what they are against. Rather than just being opposed to Obama's socialist handling of the economy, his ineptitude in foreign policy and his lack of understanding of the concerns of common people, the GOP candidate must have a clear plan of their own that will provide an alternative to the current administration.

The final lesson: our candidate must care and connect with people. It is not enough to simply care about Americans as some politicians, such as President Nixon, truly do but are unable to express it convincingly. And it is not enough to simply project concern, such as President Obama, but then have your policies weaken the strength and resources of the American people. The magic of President Reagan was that people felt that he really cared about them, and he truly did.

A few of the gold star family members, who were previously disgusted with Obama, left the meeting stating what a charming man the President it. It seems that wanting a presidential candidate who would be a good buddy is an important characteristic in qualifying for public office. It worked for Clinton, the down-to-earth W. Bush over the out-of-touch Kerry, and it certainly helped Obama's victory. The GOP needs to ensure this works for them in 2012.

The Republicans must focus on how conservative principles empower individuals. They fail to convey how applying honesty and hard work benefits people; however, they are adept at communicating how these ideas apply to businesses. The GOP cannot show aloofness to people and a passion for industry. They have to reassure people that they care for them and not just financial statements.

© Kristia Cavere Markarian


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Kristia Cavere Markarian

Kristia Cavere Markarian and her husband, Charles, are committed Christians. Her background is in finance, national security, and education. Everyone is welcome to connect with Kristia through Twitter and Facebook. On her website, she writes every weekday about faith & values, marriage & relationships, child-rearing, etiquette, current events, and all of life's joys:


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