There is not doubt that the election of President-elect Barak Obama has ushered a new era in global politics. Here was an ordinary guy who made a brilliant speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention and the rest is history.
He made history and defined our generation by convincing many of his country men and women to believe in change and the audacity of hope. Above all he has challenged all of us to think outside the box or the silo of what we have accepted normal and ordinary.
The year, 2008, that has shaken the global financial architecture has also produced a ray of hope and the possibility of ordinary citizens reclaiming their future from entrenched political actors in manner that future generations will look back at this year as the finest year of the triumph of hope and the extraordinary power inherent in ordinary people that are organised and led by inspiring individuals.
As this unforgettable year comes to end, we have a lot to look forward to as Africans in the knowledge that the only power people who do not have power is the power to organise.
Obama demonstrated that attitude can determine the altitude of a people who had been used to accepting the world as it was and not what they want it to be.
Americans who believed in Obama’s message of change have given the power to people who hitherto felt that they were powerless, the energy to invest in the change they want to see.
Unlike Lekota and colleagues who coped out of the ANC, Obama demonstrated that through citizen participation no power can overcome the power of organised people even entrenched ideas in the ruling party.
He defined the tone and language of American politics in a manner that even the greatest armies have failed to do to the extent that even his adversaries had to embrace the buzz word of the election: “change”.
His adversaries were transformed by the message of change to locate their own energies in the collective quest for a better America.
The face of Obama as the first African American to rise above the divisive radical black political agenda became the face of change not only for the USA but for the rest of the world.
The world watched the American political drama with keen interest and yet most of us still have to digest the real significance of this defining election. Only in America could hope be converted into reality without any bloodshed.
America is no more than a noble idea of a people drawn from different cultures that a civilization founded on key principles can yield extraordinary outcomes including allowing, for example, a former community organiser to realise a dream of becoming the first non-traditional President of the most powerful nation in the world using other people’s money on the back of selling the message of hope, change and faith.
The world has come to accept that Obama is a gifted politician who understood the viability and importance of grassroots politics. He converted the inert and often ignored grassroots voice into one of the most potent power instrument for change.
He understood the importance of overpowering the hitherto dominant political voices in his own party and instead of setting up new institutions he demonstrated that it is possible to take control of an established party with finesse.
We all have a learned a lot from Obama and the revolutionaries who underpinned his political brand. What is obvious in Africa is the complacency of those who want Africa to change but are rarely prepared to participate in the change they want to see.
If people had not responded to the call by Obama that they owned the change process through their active participation, there is no doubt that his fate would have been any different from his African American predecessors.
Many of us have lamented the fact that change is difficult in Africa not least because of the broken and bitter politics but because the energy for change is largely missing.
There is no doubt that the election of Obama as the 44th President of the USA has ignited the hopes and dreams of millions across the globe including the home of his father, Africa.
An inaugural committee of Africa (ICA) of which Africa Heritage Society (AHS) is a member has been formed to host a gala dinner on Tuesday, 20 January in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The triumph of hope has inspired many across the world who like Obama refuse to accept that they bear no responsibility to the state of affairs in their own countries.
It is usual that the inaction of those possessed with the knowledge of what is wrong that often undermines the possibility and feasibility of change.
The condition of Africa is not God ordained but a result of our collective neglect and the belief that someone somewhere will invest in the change that we want to see.
America is broken and in need of renewal and people who believed that the country needed change did not wait for other people to be the change they wanted to see.
We have chosen to host the gala dinner in recognition of the historic significance of this Presidency and for those living in South Africa it is particularly important that we accept that the future of the country may not lie in Cope but in Hope.
If we keep hope alive and invest in the change that we want to see the future of the continent can only be secure. We all have a part in shaping it.
The political space has never been attractive for many of Africa’s decision makers who have largely chosen to abdicate in the expectation that wisdom will come from the poor majority whose choose politics as a vocation not for good but for self preservation.
The last 52 years of uhuru has exposed the naivety of those who stand more to lose by Africa degenerating into economic and political mess but choose to do nothing to secure their future.
If you believe Africa’s future is your business, then there should never be a wrong time to start to think about your role in shaping such a future.
Obama has provided a compass and as we count down to the inauguration day we need to ask ourselves serious questions about our own obligations as African citizens to make the continent what it should be.
I do hope that as you reflect on what lies ahead in the remaining days of 2008 you will take time to respond to our call at AHS that you have a part to play in defining Africa’s future.
If you believe Obama’s journey provides any lessons to you, please join us on 20 January and celebrate the triumph of hope. For more details about the gala dinner.
If you do not belong to an organisation that seeks to change the world we see please do consider joining in impacting on Africa to make it the kind of continent that we want to see.
Change begins with you and not the neighbour. Motion can only come from being engaged. No change will come out of itself.