Her demeanor betrays that she is a country-wide sensation, interviewed by major dailies and stations including BBC Africa. Under the cool and calm exterior lies a sharp mind that has seen her rise above challenges and opportunities that have come her way.
Julie Wangombe hit the headlines after she played an integral role in writing President elect Uhuru Kenyatta’s acceptance speech. At a relatively tender age of 22, she is probably the youngest person in the world to write a presidential acceptance speech, well, at least younger than the then 27 year old Jon Favreau who wrote Obama’s acceptance speech in 2009.
Inspite of the accolades Julie is getting, she has taken it in her stride and appears unfazed being in the spotlight. She has however taken her dizzying success in her stride and appears unruffled by the attention.
“I am not yet overwhelmed by the attention. Of course the idea of being a role model to anyone is daunting but I guess it encourages me to ensure that I strive to make the right decisions and say the right things. I think about my tweets a whole lot more before I tweet them. It’s encouraging to have received so much positive feedback,” says the bubbly Julie.
Some comments she has received have however not been too flattering. This was especially after it emerged that her father is a personality high up in the society ladder. Critics were quick to attribute her success to this fact. The first year International Relations student at the United States International University (USIU) laughs off the allegations.
“I appreciate and cannot, in good conscience, apologise for every opportuntity that God has given me, especially the opportunity to access quality education and a plethora of learning resources. I think those are the most important opportunities you can give any human being.”
“My parents have been extremely supportive. My mother, given her background in literature and the time she has spent as a teacher and lecturer, has been extremely critical to my growth as a writer. I think I got my love of words from her. My father has been incredibly supportive. He has always instilled in us the value of education and hardwork. He’s more of a math, economics and business person so their combination has made me a little balanced. I think that’s reflected in my choice of a major in International Relations.”
“No person can truly take credit for their success. If we succeed it is always, inevitably, the result of other people investing in us. There’s been a lot of people like that in my life, including my parents, who worked hard to secure access to education for me – my sister, who forced me to apply for TED’s international talent search and who untiringly supports me. By the way, if I ever run for public office, she is gonna be my campaign mananger. Many of my high-school teachers and Sakaja Johnson who probably had the biggest hand in this current flood of attention by virtue of the fact that he hired me for the President Elect’s campaign team. I also have learned so much about life and politics from the people I met in that campaign team. They’ve helped me in more ways than I care to count. I’m still learning, and I hope that all the help I’ve recieved translates into me helping others.”
Having rubbed shoulders and mingled with politicians of high standing perhaps Julie caught the political bug?
“The thought of venturing into politics has crossed my mind. I don’t know what life has in store for me, but I can say that whatever it is – my interest remains helping; teaching; equipping and inspiring people to be whatever it is they should be! Which means I first have to learn and get inspired myself. So that’s where I’m at,” states a confident Julie.
There are a few things that people do not know about her and after a bit of prodding she opened up.
“I have never particularly enjoyed reading poetry. I was good at analysing it in high-school and what not but its not something I’ve ever gone out of my way to do. When I encountered Spoken word I loved because it was more of a performance and you could hear the passion in the poetry.”
There was no more need for prodding. She was now revealing her other side unbridled.
“I love musicals. Secretly (and not so secretly now) I think I’d like to act in one some day. That would be fun. I’m also a positive realist. I’m eternally optimistic and I think I’m a romantic!”
The current tribalism being propagated via social media irks her. She reckons that it is unfortunate that the major culprits of it are people who are well read and informed.
“It is unfortunate that people have become very tribal on social media,” says an agitated Julie.
“It is easy to hide behind groups when spreading hate and being malicious but it is extremely difficult to take personal responsibility for the destruction it causes.”
“Let’s not be double minded as Kenyans on social media. If, fo instance, Kenyans on twitter have an issue with western media portraying us as ethnically motivated, war-minded, uncouth and uncivilized, then let’s not give them fodder. Don’t on one hand criticize CNN and on the other spew garbage about your fellow citizens.
“If you are not part of the negatively tribal conversation then we have a responsibility to call out our peers and those around us who are perpetuating negative statements. Engage them, seek to understand their perspective and be prepared to give a reason for your different position!”
This current trend is made worse for her because she is a born again Christian and subscribes to virtues that allow people to live in harmony.
“I am born again and this has had an influence in whatever I do. I believe the idea behind Christianity is that it should positively influence all spheres of your life. I am not perfect but I do my best.”
Her parting words to her fellow young people is that they should not waste their time on activities that will not help them develop.
“Stop wasting your time. Pick up a book and read. Explore and dare to venture into the unknown. Immerse yourself in things that will spur growth.”
Given her scintillating beauty, it is natural that men approach her in droves. It would perhaps be refreshing to men who are not intimidated by a mix of brains and beauty to know that she is not spoken for.