ComEd’s Clark: Obama destined to be national leader

Frank Clark, ComEd president, uses simple words to describe President-elect Barack Obama: “extraordinary, God’s gift, national leader, destined.”

Frank Clark, ComEd president, uses simple words to describe President-elect Barack Obama: “extraordinary, God’s gift, national leader, destined.”

Clark and Obama met when the latter was a community organizer in Chicago in the mid-1980s. That meeting turned into a friendship that has endured for decades and continues to impress Clark.

Obama instilled such a favorable impression that the energy executive joined the ranks of Ariel Capital’s John Rogers and Mellody Hobson, Allstate Insurance’s Desiree Rogers, and James Reynolds of Loop Capital Management, all of whom were able to aggregate and raise at least $100,000 for the Obama campaign.

The Federal Election Commission described them as “bundlers,” a term Clark summarily dismissed. He explained that his work and fundraising on Obama’s behalf was about the fact that he believed in the senator.

“You get behind someone who has a vision, values and frankly the ability to be a change agent,” he said.

Clark noted that his support of Obama was not predicated on the Illinois junior senator becoming president.

He said, “You do that because you believe in the person. Once you make the commitment, you give them your support. It is not conditional on whether they’re going to be a winner because you don’t know whether they’re going to win or not.”

Meanwhile, President-elect Obama and Clark have a history that dates back to Obama’s days as a community organizer in the mid-1980s, after the Harvard Law School graduate moved to Chicago.

It was that long-term relationship that caused Clark to describe Obama as “destined to be a national leader.”

He was quick to note though that what makes Obama special doesn’t take long to discern and that in itself was one of the reasons it was easy to raise money for the president-elect.

“No, he has not been a hard sell at all. He has not been a hard sell because I think the same sense of destiny that I saw in him and continue to see in him, others see in him. Sometimes it is hard for people to articulate it in a clear way, but there is a feeling you’re looking at someone very special, someone who is very gifted, not because he is charismatic, but what Barack Obama is more than anything else, he’s a God-gifted leader,” Clark said.

Although he uses simple words to describe the Presidentelect, his expectations certainly are not simple, as he sees Obama changing how the United States is viewed.

Clark added: “Under his leadership, I expect to see leaders from around the world look at the United States differently because they all will find it hard to believe that this country would elect someone who wasn’t Anglo Saxon or certainly representative of the majority of people in this country. I think that will be a wake up call and it will make them re-assess what this country is. I think Barack Obama represents the change in direction that is occurring in America. It is subtle. It is not consistent. In some pockets it is more obvious than in others, and that’s part of what makes him special. The right man for the right time and there’s something occurring in this country.”

He said Obama’s popularity and his vision represent a new America in which all people embrace change. Clark said even a decade ago, putting a multi-racial person in the White House would have been unheard of.

While he has known Obama for a couple of decades, Clark said he was surprised at how fast the president-elect’s success came.

“I was not surprised at this success, no. I sat down with him in my office and saw a guy who I believed to be destined to be a national leader. Did I know if it would be as a powerful senator, president, or vice president? No. The first time I was talking to him (about his political future) he was running for (the Illinois) senate.

“I said you generally stay in the Senate for a couple of terms before you’re able to position yourself for higher office. So it was the rate of the ascendancy, not the fact that he ascended to running for president.”

From Clark’s perspective Obama’s appeal to so many was rooted in his background.

“He is multi-racial. I think that’s special. In this country, if you’re part Black, you’re Black. But the fact is he is multiracial. He was raised in an environment and brought up in a way that gives him a world view that’s unique. I don’t see another leader in this country who has, because of his background, such a worldview.

“An Asian perspective, an African perspective, very much a white working class perspective with his grandmother raising him in Kansas, and that’s the heart of Middle America.

“So he has all this that he brings to the table. I don’t know anybody else who has that collection of experience to bring to the White House at a time when that collection of experience is exactly what we need.”

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