Dream: Potential Realised!

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The Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Championships (better known as Champs) along with recent banter in the nation’s Parliament between our two parties reminded me of a quote from one of my favourite colleagues, the late Dr. Myles Munroe:

“The wealthiest place in the world is not the gold mines of South America or the oil fields of Iraq or Iran… [the wealthiest place] is the cemetery. There lie buried companies that were never started, inventions that were never made, best-selling books that were never written, and masterpieces that were never painted. In the cemetery is buried the greatest treasure of untapped potential.”

Let the truth of that quote sink in, and allow me to paraphrase a bit of it: “The wealthiest place on the planet is a relatively small island located at 18° North and 77° West in an area called the Caribbean situated between North and South America.”

Our recent Champs is proof of this! I am not just saying this because I am celebrating or gloating as a Calabar old boy on our 28th victory and seventh-straight win. We of Rabalac don’t need to gloat over our victories. We certainly are mindful of our current rival’s great history of 31 wins and 14 straight victories (1962 to 1975). This kind of healthy, friendly banter makes for fun and excitement. Here is a good example of this among the many hilarious memes: “JC run football, Calabar run Champs, and KC run dem mout’.” It speaks of the amazing spirit of our people which makes us Jamaican.

What will we do with all this amazing potential of our youth? Can we not better harvest it and develop it for the benefit of person, family, community and nation?

Over the years, we have had some top performers at Champs who have gone on to excel on the world stage. Some who easily come to mind are Michael Frater, the little 100-metre dynamo who can run with two feet off the ground; Bert Cameron, the unforgettable, for even when a bad hamstring pull cost him a race his will to finish the course catapulted him into the annals of sporting history as a man of courage. Then more recently Usain Bolt, Melaine Walker, Winthrop Graham, Beverly McDonald, Maurice Wignall, Juliet Cuthbert, Sandie Richards, and Raymond Stewart — all top Champs performers who showed potential for great things and went on to achieve acclaim.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take us further back into Champs history and reveal great performers such as Arthur Wint and Herb McKenley, Una Morris, Vilma Charlton, Lennox Miller, Donald Quarrie, and Merlene Ottey. It is the fierce competition of Champs that honed and prepared world-class athletes such as these for the world stage.

Here is the bad news. There are great Champs performers whose glory has gone no further than Champs. What of them and why did they not achieve the great potential they showed? Was it family or school that hampered their development?

On the wider scale, what have we as a nation deliberately done to ensure that all our youth rise to their fullest potential? What are we currently doing to ensure that our failures are not repeated?

These are questions that we all must consider. Every ounce of untapped Jamaican potential should be of deep concern to we who love our country and its people. Nothing should be lost.

The same questions must be asked about this Jamaica, land we love. Senator Imani Duncan-Price, writing recently in another newspaper, made a poignant observation while visiting Singapore:

“Walking from dinner in Singapore at about 1:00 am last November, I was struck by the amazing freedom I felt. I was simultaneously sad and angry, knowing I could never do that in Jamaica. Instead, so many of us live behind grilles and watch our rear-view mirrors as we drive home late at night. I kept looking for reasons for the different outcomes for both countries as they started out with a similar economic baseline with just over US$500 gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in 1965. Today, Singapore has a GDP per capita of US$53,000, while Jamaica stands at US$4,900.” (‘Singapore Nights And Possibilities For Jamaica’, The Gleaner, March 25, 2018)

All bets are off/on

In the socio-economic Champs of 1965, both Singapore and Jamaica showed great potential. Both nations had been British colonies — Jamaica received her Independence in 1962 and Singapore got hers in 1965. Yet, over five decades later, only one has risen to the potential it showed. In fact, if bets were on in 1965 as to who would be the successful nation on the world stage, most bets would have been on Jamaica.

Jamaica was loaded with natural resources, while Singapore was mainly mud flats. Jamaica is roughly 15 times the size of Singapore but has only a little more than half the population. All the external factors seem to point to an easy Jamaican win, and yet today Singapore is a world leader economically, enjoys low crime, and is regarded as one of the best places in the world to live — a status Jamaica is hoping to achieve in 2030.

What happened? Can we, like Bert Cameron, still make it to the finish line despite a severe hamstring pull? Or is the race to achieve the great potential of the new Jamaica finished for us?

I have said it before, and I will say it again, I am an optimist! I believe there is a new and great Jamaica just ahead of us. However, the greatness will not happen by accident. It will require deliberate and systematic actions. And it is not merely about being able to do the actions. Any good coach will tell you that the athlete’s attitude and mindset are just as important, if not more so, than the physical prowess of the person. Our history is also littered with the ultimate failures of those with promising talent who didn’t have the head and heart to compete.

So, while we do what is necessary to practise fiscal discipline, and we seek to open more and more business process outsourcing centres and create new jobs, if we do not also work on our mindset and attitude it will be in vain. That is why I am so passionate about always drawing our attention back to the foundation issues of our beliefs, our values, and our attitudes. We must restate and reshape our core culture.

I also strongly contend that, going forward in this new era of building the new Jamaica, we must harness and develop every area of our potential in sports, agriculture, mining, finance, tourism, manufacturing, herbal food, and medicine — including ‘di weed’. Our policies and laws should be structured in such a way that majority ownership remains local and majority of earnings are not expatriated. In how many current industries do the majority of profits remain here? I doubt there are many. I would love to be proven wrong.

Why is this so? Leadership of yesterday did not consider Jamaica first or consider maximising potential for the greatest and highest good for all Jamaicans. May we not repeat the mistake. I recommend to Prime Minister Andrew Holness that a team be entrenched with the primary focus of monitoring and guiding this area.

Macaroni in the House

The recent ‘Macaroni’ banter in Parliament between the Leader of the Opposition Peter Phillips and Holness has become a hilarious social media topic. If you haven’t seen it yet, please take a look.

Phillips had the opening salvo and Holness responded with a comeback that was hilarious and creative. If you watch the video you will notice that Phillips’s laughter seemed genuine, even though the joke was on him. I believe that exchange between them both is evidence that we can govern and oppose without vitriol, and we can focus on what unites us rather than that which divides us. It shows that Parliament with less ego, pride and one-upmanship can be a place of fun with robust dialogue and can produce the best outcomes for our nation. Parliament, where genuine love for God and country is evident, could usher in a new Jamaica.

The new Jamaica needs new-era thinking, attitudes and actions. New times sometimes call for new people — ones without the burdens of history and the wounds of the past. The youthfulness of the current prime minister has, perhaps, saved him from the deep root of partisan political bitterness and from being disqualified by it. That same youthfulness may yet permit him to usher in the new Jamaica we all yearn to see.

Some of our leaders still bear the scars of the ideological wars and their experiences have caused them to feel disdain for and deny the potential for greatness in all Jamaicans. All leadership should be exercised upon the principle of love for all. Such leadership ought to be committed to the development of potential in every Jamaican.

We have a Creator who has always been about the business of developing the highest potential in all of us. One Bible prophet reminded a floundering nation of long ago of exactly that: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Originally spoken and written to the nation of Israel, I believe it can be embraced by the nation of Jamaica today. The message to Israel went on to say, “I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations…” For centuries, many Israelis optimistically held on to these words with such passion that they overcame the loss of their homeland, their dispersion among many countries, and the killing of many of them by Hitler and his forces. The unyielding optimism of many Jews led to them becoming a nation again on May 14, 1948.

I hope to God that there are enough of you willing to join me in passionately believing that the new Jamaica we all desire is in view — and not too far away. I pray with all my heart that there are enough of us willing to lay aside the old, divisive ways and work together to create the new Jamaica we all desire. Let’s renew our commitment to this idea as we have a happy and holy Easter season.

Copyright © 2018 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.

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