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A legacy of a caring leadership in works and words recorded on imperishable pages

By Paul T. Shipale
Tjiurimo Alfredo Hengari wrote an opinion piece titled "President Pohamba's 2012 victory should not be tentative" that appeared on Friday 22 February 2013, in the Windhoek Observer. In that piece Hengari attempted to advice the President on how to keep the momentum of his latest symbolical political victory going and how the President should start thinking of the legacy he will leave behind.

Hengari first showered the President with praises for the manner in which he 'decisively pushed for his Vice President of the ruling party, Hage Geingob. Subsequent to that, Hengari said, President Pohamba also strengthened his hand by naming the latter the Prime Minister of the Republic.'

More important, Hengari asserted, 'President Pohamba deserves credit for having been able to oversee a political and electoral process at the Swapo congress in November/December 2012 without any devastating consequences'. Hengari then suggested to the President to capitalize on his new political victory by approaching the last two years of his Presidency in a confident and urgent manner by crafting a legacy narrative for himself. Hengari reasoned that since President Pohamba's leadership has been largely transitional, managing old and new political expectations, now in the twilights of his Presidency, he should think of crafting a sustainable legacy around the key challenges facing the country as well as innovative and sustainable infrastructural priorities that would be engraved in the collective memory of Namibians as bearing the hallmarks of his Presidency, concluded Hengari. Reading Hengari's piece, it immediately occurred to me that his suggestion of 'infrastructural priorities' smacks of a French influence.

Like Hengari, I too attended the French institutions and is a common practice in Europe for a President to leave what Hengari called 'infrastructural priorities ... bearing the hallmarks of his Presidency'. Not that I entirely disagree with Hengari's proposal but I come from a school of thought that believes that powerfully crafted Speeches leave a more lasting legacy than buildings. After all, the scriptures say "Do you see these buildings? Not one stone will be left in place".

Indeed, words are powerful tools acting as a seed planted by a farmer and which produced a bumper harvest in the end because it was not scorched and dried up choked like a man by the desires to get rich. Therefore, what I think should be a lasting and enduring legacy of President Pohamba is first and foremost a display of a caring and loving leadership that looks for the lost sheep and that can be judged by the fruits of its work and words.

I already stated that in tumultuous times, a nation deserves more than lethargy, uninspiring plodding and vacillation. In such times as these, nations need decisive leadership and direction. Nations need leaders who speak frankly and courageously about issues that threaten their social-cohesion. Most importantly, people need a message of hope and a vision for the future outlined and recorded on imperishable pages.

I don't disapprove of the President's crafted stupendous speeches but do they outline a vision and give us hope for the future?

It is therefore worthwhile to study and analyze the speech outline of Obama's inaugural address, because we can learn from the strong, simple structure which helped to convey his message coherently. Obama's speech followed a simple seven step process based on research, a defined purpose statement of the speech to determine what he wanted the speech to do (whether to educate, inform or inspire). Once that part was done, the statement boiled down to a theme woven throughout the presentation.

The next step was to create an outline for the speech and other supporting evidence to drive home the main points. After that, the content was organized. In addition to organizing the content, it was determined how much time will be spent on each main point. Once that was done, the speech was written and edited for timing so it will be easy for the audience to listen to and remember.

Obama's speech was frank and honest about the realities of the socio-political and economy conditions; it addressed the sagging morale and lack of confidence; the delivery was impeccable as Obama appeared strong and offered an olive branch to his opponents before making a call-to-action for personal contributions. Obama's speech followed a six-step structure. First, Obama mentioned his predecessors not as mere formality, but as a way of respect for the individual regardless of whether you agree with them. Secondly, Obama was blunt and direct about the State of the Nation, using phrases like "the challenges... are real. They are serious and they are many." Obama didn't promise quick solutions and didn't sugarcoat it. Equally important, Obama showed great resolve and leadership with his powerful "But know this, these challenges - they will be met.

" Thirdly, Obama gave hope amidst the sagging morale and lack of confidence. In this section of the speech, Obama stayed consistent with his message of hope and reminded his audience of the struggles of the past which were overcome. Fourthly, Obama addressed the cynics. In an attempt to persuade those who are skeptical of his plans, the key phrase here was "Their memories are short." In this section his words were strong, yet friendly. Fifth; Obama charted a new foreign policy which is anchored on common human ideals and values. Last but not least, drawing a parallel between the armed forces and normal citizens in terms of embodying a spirit of service was masterful. This was a call-to-action which he delivered beyond expectations to conclude his address.

The theme for Obama's inauguration speech could be expressed as "drawing strength from our common past". His speech repeatedly drew examples from the past and even urged the people to return to old values near the end of the speech: "But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths" Obama said in his inaugural address. The only weakness in Obama's inaugural speech, it's that there was no clear, unmistakable phrase which people will be quoting years from now.

But that's not to say that this speech was lacking in wonderfully crafted and impactful lines. Several phrases resonated strongly as powerful lines; "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works", "[W]e reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals." "For the world has changed, and we must change with it" "What is required now is a new era of responsibility".

One can also use the magical rule of three to craft impactful lines. Examples abound including the Late Dr Abraham Iyambo's crafted legacy of 'deliver, deliver, and deliver! The examples in Obama's inauguration speech are of varying length: "humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed upon us, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors."

"To spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day", "the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint." "We must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America".

Sometimes the best way to highlight and sharpen concepts is to introduce contrasts. Here are a few examples from Obama's Inauguration speech: "rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace" versus "gathering clouds and raging storms", "know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy." In addition, one way to breathe life into speeches and craft memorable phrases that will linger on the lips of the audience is to use chiasmus as one of the great tools to help you achieve this goal.

This is a Greek term meaning "diagonal arrangement." It is used to describe two successive clauses or sentences where the key words or phrases are repeated in both clauses, but in reverse order. For this reason, chiasmus is sometimes known as a criss-cross figure of speech. For example, consider the common phrase: When the going gets tough, the tough get going! Chiasmus was a common technique used by John F. Kennedy in his Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961: Ask not what your country can do for you- ask what you can do for your country. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

To come back to President Pohamba's victories and success, we should not lose sight of the fact that so far, these have been the result of a purposeful unity and collective leadership, building on the foundation that were crafted under the reign of his predecessor, Founding President Dr Sam Nujoma. On the other hand, while I reckon that leaders are sometimes judged for posterity on a number of concrete steps and measures they have taken, I sincerely do believe that at times, it is also a collective legacy that is at stake. The government has finalized the formulation of the country's next five-year plan, NDP4, which was launched on 19 July 2012 by President Pohamba. Instead of the previous 21 unachievable goals, NDP4 focuses on three goals, namely; achieving high and sustained economic growth, job creation and the reduction in income inequality.

NDP4 is also focusing on four strategic areas of logistics, tourism, manufacturing and agriculture and has set out strategic areas that need to be improved in order to move the country forward. Among these are the economic competitiveness, institutional capacity development, education and skills development, health, industry development, development of economic infrastructure and the improvement of execution and monitoring. This may well describe the legacy of President Pohamba, once this plan is implemented. In the end, it all comes down to LOVE and a caring leadership as well as the words spoken. Let us just hope that the next State of the Nation Address is going to be a message of hope and a vision for the future outlined and recorded on imperishable pages. Above all, it should be a message that heals and unite the nation around a common vision because the opposite will be ghastly to contemplate.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer and this newspaper and are not in any way connected to my position but merely reflect my personal opinion as a citizen.


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