ObamaThe POTUS made a brief stop in Jamaica recently and the nation was agog. Like our track and field, nothing was more important to the country than a visit of a siting President of the USA.  It was nationally important, a sort of pat on the back to remind us that yes we are ‘important.’

It was so important to us that the government dug deep in the budget to allocate funds for cosmetic improvements. Such is the benefit of ‘unexpected’ visits of worthy guests. That expenditure was explainable that even the IMF could not object.

obama memeThe political charades before the visit was interesting at most and laughable at the very least. Everyone wanted to be in on the party and we saw ministers from both side of the isle jockeying to take up positions of excellent selfie. The social media erupted with memes that depicted the very best creativity of social and political humor. Excitement became the sweet companion of a depressed nation.

But excitement can be an ale that when taken carelessly, drunks those that taste her warm beverage  because amidst all the selfie moments a lot of people missed the real message of his visit. It was reported that the President’s only engagement , other than with regional leaders, was with ‘Youth Leaders’ in a public forum setting.

The message was clear- young emerging leaders of various background, religions, language, color and sexuality were the holders of the baton of recovery. For the astute , they would have seen the logic. For the self absorbed it would have been a wind blown over the head.

lumleyIt was surprisingly interesting that the first person he called for questions was a young leader that had, coincidentally a copy of his book ‘The Audacity of Hope”. Nothing about the Presidency is ‘coincidental’. Everything is scripted and planned, down to who to call first.

It was more than what it appeared to be. It was a political stroke of genius that has a more far reaching effect than the 12 or so questions he answered.

“I believe in evolution, scientific inquiry, and global warming; I believe in free speech, whether politically correct or politically incorrect, and I am suspicious of using government to impose anybody’s religious beliefs -including my own- on nonbelievers.”
Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream
He stood steadfast in that belief. In one stroke he highlighted  Jamaica’s 2 biggest problems- the problem of social inclusiveness and acceptance and the problem of a seemingly national despair especially in our young people. Data that Jamaica’s young people would prefer to leave Jamaica and go overseas had reached him.  Obama also knows of the challenges and successes  of our government , the bitter  partisan politics that exist, police brutality and conflicts and the LGBT agenda. These two afflictions remain a pariah on our national development and the urgency to free our minds and look to the fast emerging future is still a very big challenge here.

In his hour long question and answer he told the audience  that the answers to our problems are starring us in the face. We are either going to believe that there is hope or sit back and wait on a miracle to happen. He challenged us to be audacious and to the youth leaders in the room, he was saying change begins with you.

His message was clear , …”You are the future and you make the future..”. ( President Obama Youth leadership UWI, Mona.).

It was not a blight on the present leadership, rather it was a rallying cry to the youth, including those in the present government to take up the challenge of leadership and run with it. Leadership calls that you have a clear future that is a shared vision with the people you lead. Forget but learn from what you have seen. He was saying there is no reason in believing  what your father has done was correct.  There is no need to make up for their mistakes either. The quote from his book said it clearly.

“Someone once said that every man is trying to live up to his father’s expectations or make up for their father’s mistakes….”
Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream

He wrote in his book the “The Audacity of Hope” ..”a nation that cannot control its energy sources can’t control its future..” . He alluded to that when he singled out two youth leaders, one a lesbian who despite being raped turned her negative to a positive. The other  was a young man from what is popularly known as the “projects” who had two choices to make-  crime & violence or  make a change. He chose the latter and that change began with him. That change took him to an audience with the President and was singled out by him . That was powerful. A lot of people missed it.

The President was telling us Jamaicans that our energy sources was sitting in front of him and can be found within the streets, valleys and mountains of Jamaica and they are different as the days of the week. Some are poor, some are wealthy, some are religious, some are Rastafarian, some are atheist, some are white, some are Chinese, some are Indian, some are black , some are disabled, some are old, some are heterosexuals, some are gay. It was Barack’s message of Hope, an audacious hope of change and renewal.

But change is often a drink that is taken as a bitter potion. We often see change as the critics have always imagined it – a disruption of the status quo. Obama wrote..:

…”Maybe the critics are right. Maybe there’s no escaping our great political divide, an endless clash of armies, and any attempts to alter the rules of engagement are futile. Or maybe the trivialization of politics has reached a point of no return, so that most people see it as just one more diversion, a sport, with politicians our paunch-bellied gladiators..”                    Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream

Our paunch-bellied gladiators  are everywhere. What we have now are face painted supporters that ‘kill’  each other only for their ultimate goal to win at all cost. That is a remedy for destruction. We keep putting the same remedy of the sore and wonder why the sore is not getting any better.  Obama challenged the youth leaders telling them to be audacious and change the status quo. Jamaican have to reach a point where their politics reach a balance of idealism and reality and according to him ..‘ to admit the possibility that the other side might sometimes have a point…”

The political maturity of which he speaks is not fleeting  but within our own consciousness. Youth leaders must accept this challenge and start to change the minds of our people. The paunch-bellied men have done their part, now its their turn. Change is a process.  It starts often times at the bottom of the valley but it leads most times to the top of the mountain top. But the process must begin and it must begin now!

The President challenged us to have the audacity to accept that hope is everywhere, the answers are staring us in the face, it is for us to remove the veil of politics and see reality and our reality is our destiny.  It is for us to remove ourselves from our cultural, religious and social differences and work together for change. Change must be our theme, our guiding light as it is in the darkness of our differences that our prosperity is hiding.

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