People lead as good as they read

A student at Daystar once told me that he eventually wants to become the president of Kenya. I asked him what he wants to do for Kenya, and sadly, he could barely articulate that. I then asked him what his strategy was, and he said it was to start getting into the political circles and networks so that he can know the godfathers that matter.

This was just a year or so after Obama went to the White House, so I asked him: why not do things differently, the way Obama did? Introduce yourself to the world through avenues other than patronage, so that you owe your loyalty to the public, rather than to another politician. I asked him if he’d  read Obama’s story in “Dreams from my father,” or Obama’s political perspectives in “The Audacity of Hope.” The young man did not even know that Obama had written books.

And that’s a story I encounter often. Students who want to be leaders but don’t take courses in writing or in history. Aspiring leaders who don’t read, and so wont write. Yet Africa’s best leaders were writers. Leopold Senghor of Senegal made his mark as a poet of the Negritude movement. As far as I know, he was the first African president to voluntarily step down. Julius Nyerere continues to inspire us with his humility and ideology. He wrote his ideas and translated two Shakespeare plays into Kiswahili (“Mapebari wa Venisi” and “Julius Kaisari”). As I’ve said, Obama endeared the world through his two books.

So Creatives Academy isn’t just for creative writers. It is for people who want to inspire in thought and leadership. Writing helps us make what we think clearer, not just for others but for ourselves. We are able to articulate and define issues through writing.

And so the principles of creativity, audience, love for language, but most of all, love for people, cut across the disciplines. How can you say you want to change the living conditions of Kenyans, if you can’t describe the life of a woman in Mathare, a girl in Turkana, a young man in Homa Bay, a landless family in Kwale? Those are the people who inspire our stories, and also our drive for social change. That’s why we hope to see more leaders attending Creatives Academy this Saturday when Kinyanjui Kombani, Kap Kirwok and Richard Crompton take us through a discussion of “Finding Inspiration.”

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