Lessons From Barack Obama
Last Monday evening as I was walking to my hometown of Kiserian, I spotted a young man ahead of me. His hair was unkempt. And he was wearing one of those T-shirts that were dished out by Jubilee Party during the 2017 Kenya's electioneering period. The T-shirt was dirty, creating the impression that the young man had either not washed it for a month or he had been engaged in tough manual labour that day.
I also noted that the young man had folded to his knees the right side of his pair of trousers. Because he would sometimes stop and bend to re-fold the trousers, I caught up with him. And when I was passing him by, I realized he was insane from the way he was talking aloud to himself and kicking the air with his right leg.
Seeing the insane young man fold his pair of trousers on only the right side reminded me of my younger brother Symo who once teased me that I admired Barack Obama so much that if Obama went mad and started rolling up his pair of trousers to his knees on one leg, I would also do the same. That's funny, isn't it?
Yes, I used to admire Barack Obama even though I have to admit I felt a bit jealous when he was elected as the 44th President of the United States in 2008 and when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. I was also green with envy to see him getting talked about so highly in the Kenyan media as the 2008 U.S. elections were nearing. Like one Sunday morning in 2008 while I was heading to church at All Saints' Cathedral in Nairobi, I was envious to see newspapers with a front-page headline that read, "Obama the Great!"
Jealousy aside, I was a fan of Barack Obama for shizzle. I loved listening to his speeches again and again whenever I was in high spirits. The speeches that thrilled me most were his 2004 U.S. Democractic National Convention (DNC) keynote address, his 2007 Iowa caucus victory speech and his 2009 inaugural address. Imagine I listened to those speeches so many times that I can now spout off some lines from them.
Like in his 2004 DNC keynote address which made him instantly popular, Obama said that Americans must "eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white." He also talked about believing in things not seen.
Then in his 2007 Iowa caucus victory speech, Obama extolled the virtue of hope. He said that "hope is not blind optimism or ignoring the enormity of the task ahead"; hope is that thing inside us that tells us a better future awaits us if we are willing to work for it and fight for it.
And then in his 2009 inaugural address which he delivered with exemplary clarity and eloquence, Obama mentioned the following virtues that have been the bedrock of America's success: hard work and honesty, tolerance and curiosity, courage and fair play, loyalty and patriotism.
Besides listening to Obama's speeches, I also read two of his books that became best-sellers during the previous decade: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope. Though I disliked the way Obama used some perverse words in his memoir Dreams From My Father, I liked the way he narrated in the book about how he was led to Christ.
What was special about Obama's election as the 44th President of the United States in 2008 was the fact that he was black. For a long time since the founding of America in 1776, blacks had always been viewed as an inferior race. And no matter how diligently they laboured, there were barriers born of bigotry and discrimination that made it impossible for many blacks to achieve success. Hence the uniqueness of Obama's election as president. And I think that must be the reason he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.
And Obama turned out to be a competent president because he was re-elected in 2012. During his two terms, there was no major scandal in his administration; the American economy recovered from the worst depression since the Great Depression in the 1930s; unemployment rates in the United States went down; and America not only enjoyed peace but it also became a more respected nation in the world.
There are three lessons we can learn from Barack Obama and his rise to be the most powerful man on Earth. The first is that we have to work hard if we are to realize our dreams. Obama didn't just dream to be president of the world's strongest economy; he summoned the discipline to get there. He read books and travelled the world to open up his mind. He studied at Columbia University and Harvard Law School. (Those of us who have applied to universities in America know very well that Columbia and Harvard are not easy to get into.)
The second lesson we can glean from Obama is identifying our talents, developing them and choosing a career that makes use of them. Obama discovered he had a talent for leadership and public-speaking when he moved to Illinois to work as a community organizer, a job that had little pay. He tapped into those talents and chose a career in politics that made use of the talents. As a result, he rose to the top in his field.
It is interesting to note that black Americans are not the only ones who voted for Obama. Americans of other races did too. And supposing only blacks had voted for him, their votes would not have been sufficient to win him the presidency. Therein lies the third lesson: that success only favours those who have discovered their true identity. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on lessons from Barack Obama, you might also enjoy another one I wrote on "Lessons From Ronald Reagan". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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A Day at the National Library
At one time in 2008 when I was at the university in JKUAT, the Kenya National Library in Upperhill, Nairobi, became the focal point of my life. I used to spend some of my days there, reading books and magazines in those days when I had no worry about where my next meal would come from.
Among the books I remember reading at the library in 2008 was a tome containing biographies of all American presidents up to that time. I learnt from that tome an interesting fact about President John F. Kennedy which I will not disclose here. I also learnt from it of how being stricken by polio made President Franklin D. Roosevelt more sensitive to the problems of other people.
Of the magazines I went through in the library in 2008, the ones that had a strong impression on me were those with colourful pictures of beautiful women. I very much admired the clear blue eyes of those beautiful women. Unfortunately, I can't recall the names of those magazines - which says much about my lack of interest in their contents.
Then in the year 2011 when I was at the University of Nairobi, I again made the Kenya National Library the centre of my life. This time, in addition to reading books and magazines, I browsed the internet that was provided for free at the library. It was during those browsing sessions that I discovered Goodreads.com - a social networking site for book lovers.
The book I recall reading at the library in 2011 was a voluminous dictionary of quotes. I particularly liked quotes in the dictionary from the Bible that touched my heart in a way they had never done before. Oh, how I have wished to add that dictionary of quotes to my home library!
Over the years since 2011, I have made a number of visits to the Kenya National Library - though not as frequently as I used to do in 2008 and 2011 because of my inability to afford commuting fares to the library. And during some of those visits to the library, I have found a book or two that have moved me.
Like at one time, I came across in the library a colourful history book that discussed major events of the world since the formation of the universe. I found that history book so uplifting that I have longed to also add it to my home library.
Then during another visit to the library, I found Dr. Myles Munroe's The Spirit of Leadership in the reference section. Though I didn't get to read much of the book, I was invigorated by an anecdote in it that challenged me to awaken the spirit of leadership in me. Because of time, let me not tell you more about the anecdote.
Yesterday, I decided to spend my day at the Kenya National Library after having been away from the library for more than three years. Because I was feeling groggy in the head (something I attribute to lack of regular exercise and writing in the past ten days), I hoped to find a book in the library that would move me deeply to a point of making me feel whole again. I also hoped to meet a beautiful young woman in the library with whom I could engage in a conversation.
As I walked to the library in the morning, I could feel my mind brightening up in anticipation of what I would read and who I would meet. And when I entered into the library, I noted how big it has become after the construction of a new building. I also noted that the old building that used to house the library in 2008 had been demolished.
Well, I didn't come across a book at the library that moved me deeply yesterday. I also didn't spot any beautiful young woman worthy of my conversation. And I was a bit disappointed to find that the internet was down in the library. But I nonetheless enjoyed my time in the library where I read a few pages from a couple of books. I so much enjoyed perusing books that I wished the library was within walking distance from home.
All told, yesterday turned out to be a splendid day for me. I found it fulfilling to go through books in search of inspiring ideas. A library is a great place to be. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on a day at the national library, you might also enjoy another one I wrote sometimes back on "Book Review: 'Be Inspired Before You Expire'". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.