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Image What I'll be Teaching my Kids about Barack Obama

All the talk in the world about financial crises will not take away from the main event of January 2009 – the inauguration as President of the United States of a man born to an African father. Yet, for me, the key issue is what lessons this historic achievement offers us as Africans living as minorities within our host countries around the world.

My younger daughter (after trying in vain to switch the channel to one of her TV programmes while we watched an Obama special) asked me impatiently, 'Why is everybody talking about Obama?'

I wondered how to reply. Should I simply say ‘he is the first Black man to be elected President in America?' – an easy enough reply, but not one that I think will teach her anything. Now I’ve given it more thought, what I really need my daughter to understand is that his achievement is about more than his colour. So here’s what I'll be teaching her:

1. The importance of appealing to hope and to 'the better places of the human spirit' rather than fear

Call it a catchy slogan or call it smart, 'Hope We can Believe In' came to epitomise the direction of Obama’s presidential campaign. People can be frightened into behaving in a particular way, but how much more inspirational can a leader be than to appeal to the possibility of a better time and a better way?

2. That inspirational leadership is having grace under fire

Having the audacity to aim high brings a visibility that tempts some to aim low. By daring to challenge an established order, Obama had to reckon with the kind of flack that few of us would relish. By refusing to succumb to the 'angry black man' stereotype, he demonstrated how maturity and grace can withstand the most testing of times.

3. That everyone matters

Perhaps inspired by his own diverse heritage, Obama has shown the importance of inclusion as a leadership trait. While staying true to the race with which he identifies himself, he has worked closely with people from different backgrounds, gender and ethnicities and it is this diverse support that helped propel him towards achieving his goal.

4. The importance of Alliances and Networks

During his early years as a campaign organiser, Obama’s work with grass roots organisations meant that he got to know people, to understand the issues they struggle with and what matters to them. He also understood the importance of working with those with power and influence and assiduously built networks among those he had met through his privileged education and thereafter. Obama’s alliances offered him a means to get the chance to be part of the decision making process and to shape policies for those whose problems he now understood better.

5. Create your own identity and don’t be defined by others

By remaining true to his vision of who he is and not appearing unduly worried or affected by the need of others to pigeonhole or define him, Obama defied expectations, ignored predictions and, in the process, created a unique style of political leadership.

6. Addressing your mistakes and moving on

When you make a mistake, the best thing is to own up and say sorry. An off-hand and careless remark about Nancy Reagan led Obama to pick up the phone and apologise personally to the former First Lady. The word 'sorry' has a remarkable ability to heal – a lesson that many in public life have sadly failed to learn.

7. Audacity

Who told you it couldn't be done? Tell them right back, "Yes, it can!" My kids are fortunate enough to have a father who has always told them there's nothing you can't do.' For children from minority communities who aren't lucky enough to have this positive affirmation in-house – well, luckily, now they can just look over at the White House.

Although, at 8 years old, she may not understand all of this yet, I want my daughter to learn that, amazing though it is to see a Black man in charge of the White House, these are the real lessons about leadership.

In This Issue

A Happy New Year to all our readers and subscribers. Thank you for continuing to support ReConnect Africa and please share your newsletters with friends and colleagues!

In this issue we direct our focus onto South Africa and look at how a global network of South Africans and 'friends of South Africa' have come together to promote the country. We bring you a report on the work of the NICRO Trust in the UK to support the extraordinary programmes that are steering young South Africans away from a life of crime. In the business section, you can find our report on the recent briefing by Lesetja Kganyago, the Director-General of the South African Treasury on the country's plans to weather the global economic crisis.

If you need some inspiration, you can do no better than to turn to the Careers section for our interview with the beautiful and talented Julia Doe. Julia shares her story about how she is making the transition to a career in music.

Also in this section, we bring you the first of a number of reports on the inaugural Future Talent Summit that brought together senior industry leaders to discuss the talent crisis facing the oil, gas and power sectors.

Life now begins at 50 and if you need some advice on how to take the next stage of your career forward, our Career Coach offers some useful advice.

This month our '5 Minute Interview' is with Abu Bundu-Kamara who works tirelessly to promote diversity- in all its forms - within the publishing sector.

In 'Leading the Continent', we return to South Africa and look back at our interview with Ghanaian Fred Swaniker and his African Leadership Academy, the first secondary school focused on developing and supporting the next generation of African leaders.

The New Year is bringing its share of events and our Events listing give you details of what's on this month in the UK and overseas.

As ever, we report on news from the UK and around the world and bring you an overview of news from across the African continent.

ReConnect Africa Members’ Forum

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