Dear Mr. President: How to Watch the Super Bowl

Can a president’s success be traced back to how he watches the Super Bowl?  I recently heard an interview that convinced me there’s a correlation.

Jodi Kantor is a New York Times correspondent who has covered the Obamas since 2007.  Her book, The Obamas, details the private life of the presidential family.  In an interview about the book, she describes the scene at the White House for Super Bowl Sunday.  To paraphrase Ms. Kantor:

Barack Obama invited a huge crowd to the White House for the Super Bowl.  As is tradition, he invited not only political allies but also adversaries.  What better way to extend an olive branch, right?  Before the game started, Pres. Obama worked his way through the room and welcomed the crowd.  Yet just as the game began Obama took a seat at the front of the room, turned to the TV, and ignored the guests for the duration of the game.”

On the other hand, can you guess who this is?

This other president was an equally smooth communicator and at least as charismatic, yet handled social events very differently.  While the Obamas rarely hold social events in the White House’s private residence, this president had a reputation for all night bashes.  When he hosted social gatherings like Super Bowl parties he, too, invited political adversaries but lavished them with attention for the entire event.  Many who met this man have said, “No one’s ever made me feel so important.”  Granted, this president also had his challenges but he had a better reputation than most for finding ways to get deals done.

His name?  Bill Clinton.

My intent is not to disrespect our current president or give undo praise to a former one.  Rather, the distinct approach to social gatherings reminds me that even at the highest levels, connecting in a friendly way can temper even the greatest of rivalries.

Let’s ask ourselves at our next social gathering – especially those including people we don’t know or have battled with in the past – “Am I doing all I can to connect, befriend, and learn?”
As comfy as the front row Lay-Z-Boy may appear, the key to success requires that we pay less attention to the main event and more attention to those who are attending it.

Wishing you a great Super Bowl weekend!