What are we building that lasts?
This interview with Obama in Vanity Fair was a nice read, but here's an excerpt that resonated with me:
Early in my presidency, I went to Cairo to make a speech to the Muslim world. And in the afternoon, after the speech, we took helicopters out to the pyramids. And they had emptied the pyramids for us, and we could just wander around for a couple hours at the pyramids and the Sphinx. And the pyramids are one of those things that live up to the hype. They’re elemental in ways that are hard to describe. And you’re going to these tombs and looking at the hieroglyphics and imagining the civilization that built these iconic images.
And I still remember it — because I hadn’t been president that long at that point — thinking to myself, There were a lot of people during the period when these pyramids were built who thought they were really important. And there was the equivalent of cable news and television and newspapers and Twitter and people anguishing over their relative popularity or position at any given time. And now it’s all just covered in dust and sand. And all that people know today are the pyramids.
Sometimes I carry with me that perspective, which tells me that my particular worries on any given day — how I’m doing in the polls or what somebody is saying about me … for good or for ill — isn’t particularly relevant. What is relevant is: What am I building that lasts?
I'm lucky to be friends with very exceptional and motivated individuals who've discussed having the same feeling with me. It's sometimes really hard to articulate how our work is all additive, all paving the path to a more ideal world. Time and again, I realize how quickly I find myself thinking about the future without taking a moment to breathe and celebrate the past and present - that's something I've been wanting to change.