“We have not inherited this land from our forebears; we have borrowed it from our children.”
This is the one statement President Obama repeated multiple times during his speech this last weekend when addressing Kenyan issues. Somehow this man managed to speak with humour, character, finesse, and silent authority. No wonder he is the president of the Free World.
I can honestly say that Obama was able to address in a very easygoing manner, all the issues that currently are at the forefront of Kenya’s attention. He spoke on insecurity, corruption, ethnic and cultural diversity, joblessness, female degradation, and being held back culturally by some of the traditions of the previous generations.
What I loved about his speech though was that he did not just mention the problems with Kenya but he also spoke of solutions. He spoke not only about how far we have to go, but he spoke of how incredibly far we have come in such a short period of time. He spoke not with despair at how our economy may seemly be failing, but with the hope that the new ideas and entrepreneurship being started will blow up this country’s future in a big, positive way! He directly said, “…The future of Africa is up to Africans.”
President Obama’s speech was completely in vain if Kenyans only heard what he said and did not listen to implement it towards the growth of our nation. On that note, I would like to share some of the lessons I personally learned from his speech.
(All quotes are taken directly from President Obama’s speech)
1. Our history is part of who we are a part that is to be celebrated and learned from, knowing that the mistakes we have made in the past do not define us but teach us and lead us towards progress. “We know history so that we can learn from it. We learn our history because we understand the sacrifices that were made before, so that when we make sacrifices we understand we’re doing it on behalf of future generations.”
2. In order to grow this nation to the place where we want it to be there are a lot of things that still need to be changed. “Today, a young child in Nyanza Province is four times more likely to die than a child in Central Province — even though they are equal in dignity and in the eyes of God. That’s a gap that has to be closed. A girl in Rift Valley is far less likely to attend secondary school than a girl in Nairobi. That’s a gap that has to be closed. Across the country, one study shows corruption costs Kenyans 250,000 jobs every year — because every shilling that’s paid as a bribe could be put into the pocket of somebody who’s actually doing an honest day’s work.”
3. As a follow-up to the above point we are the only ones who can make the change happen. We cannot sit around complaining and waiting for someone else to fix our problems. We have to look for solutions. “You can’t be complacent and accept the world just as it is. You have to imagine what the world might be and then push and work toward that future.”
4. Investing in the youth. Obama stressed this point and even quoted Robert F. Kennedy who said, “It is a revolutionary world that we live in, and it is the young people who must take the lead.” If you are the youth, invest in yourself. Do whatever it takes to increase your skill and knowledge to make the difference only you can make.
5. Equality. It is easy to forget when you have had the opportunity to be educated that a big percentage of the population of our nation is being held back from achieving their full potential. There are women who know nothing but being a domestic housewife for their whole lives, yet if they were given the chance could have been small business owners and entrepreneurs who could have further developed the economy of our nation.
President Obama’s two cents were comical and full of sense. “You know, we’re in a sports centre. Imagine if you have a team and you don’t let half of the team play. That’s stupid. That makes no sense.” “These are issues of right and wrong — in any culture. But they’re also issues of success and failure. Any nation that fails to educate its girls or employ its women and allowing them to maximize their potential is doomed to fall behind in a global economy.”
6. Unity in the face of diversity. Right now especially it is easy to be divided and suspicious but we have to remember that we are one nation. We may be of different tribes, tongues, and religions, but we can only succeed when we strive to work together and love each other like others the same womb. This is one of the biggest ways to defeat the very nature of terrorism itself.
“Extremists who prey on distrust must be defeated by communities who stand together and stand for something different.” “In the United States, we embrace the motto: E Pluribus Unum. In Latin, that means, out of many, one. In Kenya, Harambee — we are in this together. Whatever the challenge, you will be stronger if you face it not as Christians or Muslims, Maasai, Kikuyu, Luo, any other tribe — but as Kenyans. And ultimately, that unity is the source of strength that will empower you to seize this moment of promise. That’s what will help you root out corruption. That’s what will strengthen democratic institutions. That’s what will help you combat inequality. That’s what will help you extend opportunity, educate youth, face down threats, and embrace reconciliation.”
7. Kenya is and will always be home. This last point may be a bit cliché but it means a lot to me. It says that I don’t have to go looking to the west, or any other nation to find something that is missing in my nation, thus giving me a sense of national pride.
“We have not inherited this land from our forebears; we have borrowed it from our children. So now is the time for us to do the hard work of living up to that inheritance; of building a Kenya where the inherent dignity of every person is respected and protected, and there’s no limit to what a child can achieve.”
Shingai is an upcoming writer with a passion for words and expression through writing. She lived in Zimbabwe as a child and has traveled to over ten countries. She craves adventure and hopes to be an inspirational writer. She is currently pursuing a degree in English Literature with a minor in Psychology at Daystar University.