Tuesday, 10 December 2013

President Obama: Great speech but it is with you and your USA that the test of Mandela's idealism must begin

Dear President Obama,

Someone said in Nairobi yesterday that whilst you mighthave not inherited the thick dark skin of your father, the true sense of Luo eulogising was sure passed on. Mr President, the selfies with PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt notwithstanding, that was a cool speech. A fitting salutation to the life of a selfless, level headed humble African statesman whose discipline, dedication and resolve helped liberate his people from the yokes of racial oppression.

But beyond the smooth talk and posturing at FNB during Mandela’s memorial service yesterday, what did the speech mean for its orator? I spent time on traffic reflecting on this speech and how much your leadership has attempted to live up to Mandela’s ideals.

You asked us to reflect on how much we have applied lessons from Nelson Mandela in our own lives. I ask you how much your leadership in the past 5 years has reflected his ideals and aspirations. You wield a lot of power. Yet you lead one of the countries in the world where the ills that Madiba could resurrect and return to Robben for another 27 years for remain alive.

You rightly put it that “around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs; and are still persecuted for what they look like, or how they worship, or who they love". But sir, where in the world today do we make terrorists of people based on the beard on their face, or the Quran in their hands?

You talked of the crop of leaders who claim solidarity with Mandela’s struggles for freedom but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. Isn’t it quite easy to look to Africa or Middle East or elswhere and point fingers? What a perfect time to remind ourselves of the trials and tribulations of Julian Assange, Edward Snowden – political fugitives of the 21st century happening right under your nose?

You spoke so eloquently about the many of us who happily embrace Mandela’s legacy of reconciliation yet resist minimalist reforms to address poverty and inequality. But sir, in what country in the world today are rogue Wall Street capitalists propped and celebrated even as they grab and plunder every manner of wealth exacerbating poverty and increasing inequality across the globe?

You challenge young people in Africa and others elsewhere in the world to make Madiba’s life’s work their own. Sir, I challenge you as well to spend the remaining days of your leadership at the helm of global power to do the same. Make amends with the Middle East - [by the way, seeing you shakehands with Raul yesterday was thrilling]. Teach your Israeli friends tolerance and coexistence. Go easy on your country’s policy on non-negotiation with terrorists – come on, Mandela negotiated with his incarcerators when he had the choice of pursuing violence. Cut the Iranians some slack.  

Otherwise, that speech will be just but another of your many sensational, populist speeches that prop your person more than inspire real CHANGE.

Thank you   

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