Wednesday, April 4, 2012

5 Life Lessons Learned from Marion Barry

The results are in. To no one's surprise Marion Barry goes back to work serving as DC's infamous politician for life. Barry's victory positions him to serve his community as the recurring and indisputable winner of the Ward 8 Council primaries
"The People's Champ?"
There's no point in debating whether or not he should win or why Ward 8 continues to reelect him. The bottom line is the man wins. At this point, I choose to sit back, watch and learn. As an observer, I have picked the 5 most important life lessons learned from Marion Barry:

1. Be Yourself
If you have a pesky vice for a late night rendezvous, don't hide it from your constituents. You never know if your constituents will find you more human and accessible. Use your weaknesses and vulnerabilities as an opportunity for a voter connection. Politics bring out the best and worst in a candidate. If people know your worst and still love you, then your best should be a cakewalk.

2. People Forget Facts, Never Feelings  
Whenever I talk to Barry supporters, they have a personal story dating back to the 1980's. Maybe it was a summer job, a free turkey on Thanksgiving or simply his acknowledgement of their struggle. It may not mean much to the general public. But Barry's populist strategy emotionally resonates with a community long neglected by DC's political elite.

3. Stay Grounded 
Marion Barry frequently walks around Downtown Anacostia, attends local events and goes into pockets of Southeast DC that make police officers clutch their holsters. Barry is fearless and it shows. His ability to maintain his comfort also gives his constituents a paternalistic confidence missing in most urban families.

4. Don't Give Up
Drug abuse, jail time, fraud accusations, blabbering ex lovers and mounting debt didn't stop Barry from pursuing his political goals. Anacostia saw his perseverance as admirable and chose to give him chance after chance to get it right. Getting it right remains to be seen.

5. Be Ready for Change, 
    But Remember Where You Came From
Threats of Anacostia's gentrification, DC's swiftly changing demographics and the social media revolution would typically break the will of a 70 year old politician. Instead, Barry hopped on twitter, engaged the topic of gentrification and kept the focus on the people who didn't change, his 4000 supporters.

Like him or not, we can't deny the Marion Barry mystique. We are witnessing history unfold. My hope is that Barry will see into the future for families in Ward 8 and make real moves to improve life east of the Anacostia River.

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