Tuesday, September 2, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
August 31, 2008
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Four years later, Barack Obama was the star of the moment in Denver Colorado. Four years ago when this man appeared at the Democratic Convention in Boston, three quarters of Americans had never heard of Obama, yet he was already a senator in the State of Illinois.

Yet, it was at the same convention that Barack Obama had his biggest break. Someone who had recognized his leadership and oratory skills included him on the list of those who would speak at the John Kerry convention. He didn’t let them down. When Obama concluded his speech, he earned himself one of the longest standing ovations. It was then that some delegates including television commentators began whispering that Obama was the man to watch in future democratic presidential elections.
One year later, Obama took his biggest gamble. The federal senate seat for the State of Illinois was due for elections. He chose to contest against all odds. He put his energies into it and it paid off. He became the only second black senator in Washington in a century.

Four years since that speech in Boston, Barack Hussein Obama has gone on to beat one of the most celebrated American families to clinch the Democratic Presidential ticket; being the first black man ever to achieve that in American history.
Listening to his wife Michelle articulate the American dream, I thought of our politics back home and wondered why we cannot focus on issues as Michelle, Hilary and other speakers did! Michelle dwelt at length on her belief in the family; the importance of staying together and being there for one another. She stressed belief in life and the future and in the American dream that endures in the Obama family history.

Michelle talked of leadership that can be believed and trusted. That in life, our word should be our bond with the people we lead. Yet in Africa, our politicians have found it easier to thrive in lies and conman-ship. Once we elect them, they forget their promises and even avoid meeting their electorate.

Just as Michelle pointed out, the height of our achievements should be the reach of our dreams. Good leadership should inspire followers to dream their dreams and strive to achieve them in their lifetime. Listening to Michelle Obama and other speakers articulate the American condition, one gets the message that the most enduring national philosophy of the Americans, all Americans, is the American dream. This is the reason every American believes that America is the place you can make it if you try. It is the place where you can find the world as it is and leave the world as it should be-better.

In a good society, citizens should know how justice, fairness and opportunity look like. The only way to know this is to see justice being done, fairness on display and equal opportunity available to everyone. If we deny our people justice, fairness and opportunity, we kill our nation.

Our political leadership must strive to give us more than paper programmes. We need a dream like the American dream. We need something to aspire to and live for. And it has to transcend all generations and ethnicity. It should be so valuable that it is automatically passed on from one generation to another by word of mouth. It should accompany us everywhere to all corners of the earth. It is this collective dream that has made America a super power and Israel an enduring nation despite their bloody past.

The reason Barack Obama may very well become the first black man to lead the American people is because he is a unique American. He sees the world differently. Where you come from or how you look like matters less to Obama. He only sees human beings and capabilities in every American.

Obama understands the American dream as the ability to lift the hopes of Americans rather than their fears. For this reason, he is acutely aware that America is ready for renewal after a decade of decline both at home and abroad.

For Africa to catch up with the rest of the world, this continent must unite to form one formidable trading block with a common purpose to improve the lives of our lot. No European, American or Chinese leader will do it for us in a thousand years. It is belief in our own dream that will do it for us.