President Barack Obama took a moment from fundraising in Michigan on Wednesday to visit the Henry Ford Museum and sit in the Montgomery, Ala. city bus made famous by Rosa Parks.Obama said he took the time to sit in the bus to "ponder the courage and tenacity that is part of our very recent history." The image was shot yesterday, but was made available to msnbc.com today.
President Barack Obama took a moment from fundraising in Michigan on Wednesday to visit the Henry Ford Museum and sit in the Montgomery, Ala. city bus made famous by Rosa Parks.
Obama said he took the time to sit in the bus to “ponder the courage and tenacity that is part of our very recent history.”
The image was shot yesterday, but was made available to msnbc.com today.

The end of the year prompts many to look back and revisit the top stories, the best albums and even biggest social media trend of the year. This year I begin my own reflection with a photo that captured my attention and taught me a valuable lesson in a year of contemptuous political debate.

This photo of President Obama taken at the Henry Ford Museum by presidential photographer Pete Souza in 2012 has great meaning for me this year.

He distributed the photo via Twitter as Obama was celebrating the 57th Anniversary of Rosa Park’s refusal to give up a seat to a white man in Montgomery Alabama in 1955 – sparking the civil rights movement.

My first impression of this photo was like most – first African American president reflecting on his path with the added tagline – “ponder the courage and tenacity that is part of our very recent history.”

It wasn’t til an observation by Charles Duhigg in his book ‘The Power of Habit’ that this story about Parks and her protest echoed what America means to me.

Rosa ParksRosa Parks wasn’t the first troublemaker on the Montgomery Bus Line.

According to Duhigg’s research, there were numerous incidents of black citizens of Montgomery who refused to adhere to segregated seating arrangements. In fact, one man was killed by police officers for refusing to sit in the ‘back of the bus.’

So what made Rosa Parks different?

Why was her defiant act the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back?

‘The Power of Habit’ offers good insight about our personal habits, habits that businesses exploit and more important to this story – social habits empowered by strong ties between friendship and weak ties in your community.

It wasn’t the defiant act alone that made the difference in Montgomery. It was the woman and our nature (our habit) to defend those whom we respect.

Rosa Parks wasn’t an ordinary woman. According to her biographers, Rosa was a respected woman of extraordinary character. She was connected in her community, an active member of many civic organizations and represented the best Montgomery had to offer – she gave more than she got.

Park’s actions activated response from leaders, evangelists, churches, businesses and many more because we come to the defense of those we respect. It’s a natural habit that makes us the best of who we are – regardless of color, tribes and ideology.

In Duhigg’s book, he explains, “There’s a natural instinct embedded in frienship, a sympathy that makes us willing to fight for someone we like when they are treated unjustly.”

That’s why this photo and the book come together for my own personal beliefs that the Civil Rights movement and for that matter our recent challenges with immigration, gun control and a volume of other social issues aren’t what they appear to be on the surface.

Sure, we can voice opinions and consider what ‘America’ means to each one individually, but for me, it’s about an ideal. Not whether it’s black or white, right or left, gun owners or not, but rather what’s best for the country – the ideal of America.

Rosa Parks won the respect of her community for her will to do what was morally right. She along with others who chose to challenge the very ideal of human rights in this country with grace, determination and grit. With her respect and ties within her community, these forces came together to change the course of history and continue the great experience – America.

This year has been unusually difficult in a sea of contemptuous politics, controversial social issues and at times the demons of the past have reared their ugly heads.

Fortunately, I believe our country rests on the Rosa Parks and others whose obligations to each other far exceed the politics.

Over the past several months, some of my best relationships have been forged with new friends not from this country. It’s there I hear the America from the outside and what it means to newcomers who find their home in this great land.

A picture is worth a thousand words and I’m not quite there yet, but I’m proud to connect the dots with this image. Our nation’s first African American president and a tribute from a book on habits that describe how we can come together.

It’s my belief that as we continue to be a part of this great social experiment that we open our minds and hearts to all those around us – especially those who give more than they get and hear in that spirit a willingness and determination to stand tall on the promise of what America can and will become – a land of the people.