The Change We Brick: Three Lessons for Obama from Legoland

Over 2,500 miles west of Washington D.C. this week in sunny Carlsbad, California, the new Obama presidency commemorates a different type of inauguration, compliments of Legoland. The Master Model Designers behind Miniland U.S.A. – the section of this theme park that depicts Lego versions of various American landmarks – dressed up the model of the steps of the U.S. Capitol for our historic 56th Presidential inauguration.

Mini versions of everyone from the Obama family to Oprah Winfrey and the San Francisco Boys Chorus can be spotted in this creative Lego masterpiece.

As my family and I continued our California journey this week, escaping winter on our Wisconsin farm, spotting the mini-figure, four-inch version of Obama first brought a smile. Creative and colorful, you’re immediately drawn into analyzing the realistic detail of this endeavor.

But scratch the plastic surface. For me, this Lego depiction took on deeper meaning, a metaphor to inspiring the challenging days ahead. Harkening to Obama’s inspiring speech yesterday, if the new President and his administration truly seek change, particularly positive help for our planet, there are lessons to be learned from this Lego display:

1. Twist the Expected
Sure you expect to see Legos at Legoland. That’s the lure that kept our seven-year old son salivating up to the park gate. But Obama taking the presidential oath of office, constructed out of Legos? That threw a surprise element into the mix, added a new perspective, and topped the conversation topics when we called Grandma back home in the Midwest that evening.

Take heed, Mr. President. There’s learning from Lego here for you. Not surprisingly, a big chunk of your presidential schedule will be filled with the formalities of this office – from state dinners to piles of documents. But what if, like the Lego inauguration at Miniland U.S.A., you added your own sustainability message to the expected? What if you embraced the expected as opportunities to lead with a dash of green?

Take those state dinners, for example. Make a statement beyond just serving honored guests a lovely meal. What if all the food on the plate came from the D.C. region, sustainably grown by local family farmers? Take those piles of Presidential documents and start printing them on recycled paper made from post-consumer waste – make a big deal about it and use it as an educational opportunity to educate folks on why such decisions are important to the future of our planet. Go beyond just rolling eggs at the upcoming White House Egg Roll on April 13, 2009 and make it into an educational opportunity to connect folks with the diversity of American agriculture.

2. Remember to Smile
We’ve all heard the dreary refrain – from impending economic fallout to mounting international tensions and a host of gloomy predictions in between. However you stack the Legos, this new administration is walking into a minefield of pressing issues. While serious attention and solutions need to top the Presidential priority plate, remember we Americans still need a healthy laugh now and then.

The Lego inauguration, while depicting a solemn, historic event, still brings a smile to the face of onlookers, young and old alike. I cracked up when I saw the Lego “porta-potties,” a realistic but humorous side to the real inaugurations. Mr. President, remember to remind us all of the joy in the everyday, showcase the reasons to smile, and we’ll all make it through the tough times ahead with vibrant strength.

3. Many Diverse Bricks Get the Job Done
The Lego rendering of the presidential inauguration join forces with the over 22 million bricks that form the other existing models in Miniland U.S.A. As any Lego enthusiast knows, the more bricks and pieces you have – the bigger the building kit – the cooler the end result.

The lesson to be learned from these Lego bricks is not only are these bricks voluminous in number, they all connect to each other. It doesn’t matter what color – from red to yellow to black – each brick can connect in some way, a reminder that we can all find common grounds of connection to work together towards change. This message of community, connection and change serves as a reminder to us all – from the President to me, the average citizen. We all eat food – what if we collectively purchased more of our produce at seasonal farmer’s markets? We all need to go places – what if we essayed to reach out to neighbors to carpool and ride share more?

This respect and appreciation for the fact that we each have a role – we each represent a connecting brick – to building a positive, sustainable future must remain a perpetual theme for us all daily. We have a new leader, a President with Master Model Builder vision, and the future remains up to us.

If you’re in the northern San Diego area, come see President Obama taking the presidential oath of office on the Capitol steps at Miniland U.S.A. in Legoland through Memorial Day. With no detail too small, this exhibit will be updated post-Inauguration day with accurate dress colors for First Lady Michelle Obama and their family.

Photo credit: John Ivanko

  1. Bridget Smith

    What a brilliant, unexpected post. I will have to retweet it! I always enjoy the Lego Model builders innovation and sense of humor. It’s reflection of real world places and events are what makes Legoland so fun.

    Thanks for your thoughts,
    Bridget Smith
    Author, The Unauthorized Legoland Guidebook

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