09 September 2011

"Why should white guys have all the fun?"

Do not let the heading mislead you – this book is not about prejudice or racism. This book is about how Reginald F. Lewis created a billion-dollar business empire in the United States in the eighties, at the time when African-American billionaires were unheard of.
Reginald Lewis used this phrase “Why should white guys have all the fun?” when he was growing up and when it was becoming apparent to him that undeniable differences existed between his African-American background and that of white people that he came across. He decided early on in his life that he was going to do everything he could possibly do to ensure he had as much fun as white people – and perhaps even more.

Reginald Lewis was busy writing his autobiography when he passed away in 1993, so a biography was completed by Blair Walker on his behalf. What I liked about the structure of the book is that Walker incorporated extracts from Reginald Lewis’ manuscript at specific points in the text to make a really interesting read.

The book shows how every single step he took along the way, from when he was in school in Baltimore, contributed directly to his ultimate goal. He calculated his moves from when he was very young and he did absolutely nothing to jeopardize his plans. He managed to get into Harvard Law School without ever completing a single application form. He was that determined to get in and he saw no other path to his goal.
It is difficult to say whether he developed the personality to match the big hairy audacious goal or whether it was the other way – but everyone who worked with him has a lot to say about his strict personality, work ethic and focus. He was extremely meticulous in the way he selected his team and was equally unforgiving when he detected sloppiness or disloyalty. He had a softer side too and was known to be very generous in his own terms. He was intelligent and had a “Can Do” that can easily send chills down anyone’s spine. As an individual in the leveraged buy-out scene, he was able to spectacularly pull feats that large multi-nationals would only marvel at.

A great read that I found very difficult to put down. It has an uplifting effect that can potentially awaken even the most discouraged of souls amongst us.

17 January 2011

Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.

The third Monday of January every year marks the celebration of the life of Martin Luther King Jnr., born on the 15th of January 1929.

To celebrate this day, I thought of sharing three of his quotes that I brought back with me (in a form of cards) from the Martin Luther King Jnr Heritage Site in Atlanta that I had a privilege of visiting recently (see photo below):

“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think”. Rev Martin Luther King Jr.

“One day we will learn that the heart can never be totally right if the head is totally wrong. Only through the bringing together of head and heart – intelligence and goodness – shall man rise to a fulfillment of his true nature”.
Rev Martin Luther King Jr.

“Many people fear nothing more terribly than to take a position which stands out sharply and clearly from the prevailing opinion. The tendency of most is to adopt a view that is so ambiguous that it will include everything and so popular that it will include everybody”. Rev Martin Luther King Jr.

25 May 2010

Bless Africa and her children

My wish today, on Africa Day, is that we start learning in earnest from our collective past, take full ownership of our future and refrain from being our own worst enemies.

My hope is that we develop, support and encourage the type of leaders that have only the interest of Africa and her people at heart.

My dream is to wake up tomorrow and see our people united as one, vigorously fighting against the evil and the ideologies that seek to advance wars, hunger, disease and pain.

My hope is that Africa grows in leaps and bounds – in her own gracious way – nurtured by the belief that we have what it takes, as Africans, to show others the way.

It is not that we do not have the leadership and the resources that we need. Sometimes we just lack the courage to deal with the challenges or we are too drained to stand next to those that do.

12 May 2010

Thumbs up for National Service

I applaud Minister Sisulu for bringing the National Youth Service (NYS) debate back on the table – albeit with a military slant and perhaps with an urgent ring to it. Detailed planning is said to start in earnest after the Soccer World Cup later this year.

The concept of NYS in South Africa is not new – it was discussed a lot at the time when Mahlengi Bhengu was still National Youth Commissioner. Currently, a National Youth service Unit exists whose purpose it is to “involve young people in the delivery of crucial government services to their communities – gaining valuable skills in the process and generating desperately needed income….”
Minister Sisulu’s concept differs slightly from this in that the (unemployed) youth will be required to leave their communities, join the military for two years, and be trained in life and other valuable skills that the army can provide.

I fully support the concept, but not from an “occupying unemployed youth” point of view.
For the National Service to have impact, I believe it must:-
· Be compulsory for all young people under the age of 30. This will assist towards unifying youth from diverse backgrounds, as opposed to implementing only for “helping the poor or unemployed”. Compulsory community service will ensure that poor and rural communities benefit from all young people, including those that are already skilled or were not necessarily disadvantaged. Medical doctors have accepted community service as part of their training and even though not always perfect, the concept has benefited communities that would not ordinarily attract medical doctors to their areas.
· Give young people the choice to join after matric or post-qualification. That way young people that have been trained in specific vocations can use the two years to apply what they have learned. We have seen recently how the army engineers built two bridges that have improved the lives of people considerably in the Eastern Cape. Newly qualified technicians and engineers could work on project such as those.
· Be coordinated by the military to ensure access to all communities across the entire country. The army is able to set up camp anywhere, as was the case at the Eastern Cape. Furthermore, the army has human resources skilled n trades (electricians, plumbers, etc) that young people can learn from, especially at peace time.
· Not include firearm training as the majority of the young people will not be absorbed back by the army at the end of the two years.

Minister Sisulu has cautioned that the NYS will require substantial financial resources. Agreed - but more than that, she will need to carefully consider the recommendations by the Bosielo Commission that studied the challenging conditions that army personnel operate under. Other issues that will need to be resolved include taking back the army’s maintenance function from the Dept of Public Works to reverse the problem of military barracks that are deteriorating.

03 March 2010

CSS – Culture Says So

The issue of polygamy is on the spot light again in London this week where President Zuma is on state visit. And yet again, the president’s justification remains the same, CSS, because “Culture Says So”. And I think that is the point at which most people both side of the debate lose one another.

We all know that practices that become irrelevant are simply left behind as we move forward as a society. As an identical twin, either my sister or I would not be alive today because the practice many years back was to kill one baby under multiple birth circumstances.

But perhaps polygamy is not as irrelevant a practive as it is made out to be? Perhaps the president is really onto something here, at least that is what people for-polygamy would like us to understand.

I just hope Mr Zuma stops using the “CSS” line because he probably does not need to. My fear is that the use of “CSS” could start setting a wrong precedence – think muti murders, killing elderly women (with a belief that they are witches), etc. The president is aware of the process to outlaw the “Male preference primogeniture”, a customary practice that preferred the inheritance of property by a first-born son, over the mother and the other children. This is a perfect example of where “CSS” just could not hold water.

So let us talk about why we need polygamy, maybe we do. But let’s leave culture out of the argument.