Valerie Dixon

Caribbean Correspondent




I believe we could all learn some valuable lessons from President-Elect Barack Obama, especially our Jamaican politicians.  Let me state emphatically, that I cannot and will not highlight all the attributes of President-Elect Barack Obama because this extraordinary man can be likened unto reading from a Holy Book, (and I am not trying to be facetious) as he can be interpreted in anyway that suits one’s interests and arguments.  The statement is simply to show the universal appeal that Barack Obama has.

It was a little less than five years ago that the then Senator Obama from Chicago, Illinois, on the insistence of friends and colleagues, decided to run for the high office of President of the United States of America.  It seems to me, fair to say, that from the moment he accepted the nomination and declared that he would be vying for the post, he began to prepare himself to lead and began to organize one of the most brilliant campaigns that has ever been staged in modern history.  He surrounded himself with intelligent and technologically savvy (mostly) young people.

I followed his campaign almost to the point of addiction and I was particularly impressed, when I read that Obama held a meeting with the conservative Democratic “Blue Dogs” and how impressed they were that he sought their help and collaboration.  Allen Boyd said Obama acknowledged in a discussion that he’s got a very, very difficult task ahead of him in figuring out how to do all that he will need to do. 

He went on further to say that Obama understands that you can’t do anything until you get your fiscal house in order.  He understands that you have got to get your budget back in balance.  Boyd said he and the other “Blue Dogs” were very pleased to hear him saying those things.  In other words, Obama knows what the ‘thorns in his flesh’ are going to be, so he is seeking assistance and collaboration to help him get them out.  At this same time, Obama’s opponents were busy “drawing dem tongues” and slandering him, while he was busy preparing himself to lead.

         What a lesson for our Jamaican politicians!  This present government has been in office for a little over a year and in my opinion they seem to be still groping in the dark trying to find the light switch, in an effort to shed some light on what they are supposed to be doing.  They had been in opposition for eighteen years and they obviously didn’t think they should have been preparing themselves for the day when they would be the government.

         They were probably only interested in ‘winning’ not ‘leading’.  Confession is good for the soul so I won’t be long.  I used to receive early morning telephone calls from a certain candidate who said he valued my intelligence and needed my input in matters that related to what he termed “winning strategies”.  I agreed to play devil’s advocate and we had lively arguments as we nattered, with ‘thrusts’ and ‘parries’ as we ‘fenced’ around the issue of the outcome of the general election. 

       All went as well as we had imagined on the night of the election and I looked forward to my early morning call.  No call came- but I am not an overly sensitive person.  A few days later, a matter was brought to my attention and I thought I should let this person know how people were feeling about the matter, so that he could prepare himself to address it in a meaningful manner.  Lo and behold to my shock and consternation, the same ‘wake-up’ caller told me that he didn’t want me to ‘disturb’ his evening.  To my mind, if an evening was so heady (maybe with alcohol or whatever) that you did not wish to be disturbed – then don’t answer the phone- let voice-mail take a message.  It then dawned on me that I had suddenly morphed into a ‘bre-bre’ (translated into English it means a “nobody”).

         The lesson that could be learnt from Obama to my mind is this.  I don’t believe that Obama would seek advice from a “nobody”.  Obama would know that I hold a master’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis on Finance and Accounts.  Obama would know that I have been teaching Advanced Level  Accounts and University courses for the better part of a quarter century and that my strength lies in breaking down complex concepts into lay-man’s language, so that my young students can ‘get it’, which explains why they are able to do so well in their examinations.

       I feel so proud when I see my students take their places in Parliament, Industry, Commerce and Banking and I wallow in their love and respect.  Obama would also take advantage of my love for the Stock Market and teaching how it operates, because he would be just a phone call away from Stock Market 101 and other related subjects.   Obama is about being “inclusive”.  Some of us have no need to boast and hype-up like some of the half- idiots who “run things” and have run Jamaica backwards to a place she has never been, not even during the “terrible days of slavery and colonialism”.

         Barack Obama is not hung up on Slavery as he does not have one ancestor who was ever a slave.  His father was from Kenya, a country that was never involved in the Slave Trade and his mother was from Kansas, a State in the United States of America.  When your head is not cluttered with the clutter of Slavery, then your vision can be that much clearer. 

     The play-wright William Shakespeare would have had a field day writing about the Black Power activists of Jamaica who now live in great houses, (at least one was actually occupied by slave owners) and who have found that capitalism and its ‘riches’ are good, very good, when compared to Communism and Socialism and the masses who were once described as the lumpen proletariat are now, under Black Power rulers, living worse than their slave-ancestors.  I hope that our politicians and all of Jamaica for that matter, will be able to learn from Obama how a ‘free’ man’s mind thinks and works as against an ‘emancipated’ man’s mind.

         I recently read an insightful article written by Jason Hill.  This paragraph jumped out and hit me- “Obama has shown us that as a Community Organizer, as someone who forsook wealth in favour of public service and as someone who inspires people to believe     in life’s better possibilities and who inspires people to pursue them; that the power of his moral suasion comes from an almost impeccable moral authority.

       He speaks to the best in humanity and his voice is a command to rise.”  This paragraph caused me to review the present crop of local politicians from both parties and I was hard-pressed to find any to whom this paragraph could fully apply.  Well let me not be so hard and say maybe there are two (and I am biased towards these two because they were students of mine.) 

       I hope that the Jamaican politicians will adopt from Obama attributes such as decency, self-discipline, self-control, honesty, accountability and transparency in much greater measure.  Judging from the way how Obama organized and managed his campaign, the business of the United States should be in good hands.

         Before closing I must say thanks to Barack Obama for loving a truly Black woman- his wife, Michelle.  I can now say that I am free, free at last, thank God I am free at last.  Due to my background and upbringing, I was conditioned into believing that all white people are to be kow-towed to and I must bow and scrape even to the insipid and obnoxious ones. 

       One white woman raked me over the coals for “thanking” her for information I could have garnered for myself.  She flattered me into an apology by telling me that I am sooooo influential, that on my word, a humongous multi-national corporation was going to suddenly recognize her and do ‘whatever’ to her.  I prayed every second- until it slowly dawned on me that I am an insignificant Black woman and that those corporations have, or can get, information on even the unborn. 

      That’s how deeply engrained my inferiority-complex was- it made me afraid to stand up to insipid and obnoxious white people.  Yes, I do stand up to insipid and obnoxious black people.  So again I say “thanks” to President-Elect Barack Obama, as I am now a free Black woman. (As for that Editor, I leave him to time.)

         In his commentary on Barack Obama’s book “The Audacity of Hope”, Basil Springer, a writer from Barbados, came to the conclusion that “A country wins when all its people (the politicians, civil servants, the captains of industry and commerce, the trade unions, the institutions of learning, the church, the media and the wider NGO fraternity) all work together in harmony for the common good and develop their spiritual, social, cultural, physical and economic agenda to serve others ahead of themselves.

         It’s not too late for our current leaders to learn from and become pro-active like Barack Obama and make every effort to be ‘inclusive’ rather than perhaps viewing 95% of Jamaica’s citizens as ‘bre-bre’.  We must stop feeding the monster of crime and violence and we do this by focusing our collective attention on it.

      We must, instead, find the collective will and starve crime and violence to death by providing economic opportunities for ALL our people.  We need leaders, like Barack Obama who will seek out the local “Green” and “Red/Orange/Yellow” Dogs and even Dogs who are colourless to co-operate and collaborate with and so turn this ship called “Jamaica” around, but first we have to push it off from the sands of crime and violence and get it back into the deep ocean of economic opportunity and development.

 We need once again proper education and training to enable us to survive, just as our ancestors did and we must recognize that they had no local politicians back then to help them.  The American people have shown President-Elect Barack Obama that they are willing to confront their challenges and support him and I hope that they will not disappoint him.  Jamaicans need to decide and make a choice to do the same thing.

Barack Obama, defied all odds and was bold enough to prepare himself to lead, even before he won the election and became President-Elect.  There are so many lessons that can be learnt from President-Elect, Barack Obama.


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14 November 2008

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