One of my most recurring themes on this blog is my belief in the youth and their potential to bring on change. You command huge numbers of our population, an active labour force and can determine the political direction that Kenya takes.
For those who are already on board, congratulations. Today’s message is dedicated to the others who are yet to internalise their power and might.
During the Pan African Media Conference held last week, President Paul Kagame rallied African leaders to champion their visions to become reality. He cited his own country’s efforts and the milestones achieved towards actualising Vision 2020.
We can hold a discourse as to why African countries fail at turning lofty dreams into realities and cite among others poor leadership (political or otherwise), lack of commitment, failure to implement plans, graft, impunity, lethargy etc. However, these factors are not in our personal control.
What we always fail to mention is our individual responsibility to move our country from today to a desired tomorrow. So today I want to ask young people to take a paradigm shift. To take their responsibilities (as Kenyan citizens) with a sober-minded approach and do what needs to be done.
I bring this up because it has been disheartening to hear some young people make derogatory remarks questioning the usefulness of the voter registration process. They act as if this country ought to fulfill much greater obligations before they can move in to do their bit. They act as if the world owes them much more for their youthful vote.
Well, the truth is that the country should fulfill its obligations. But neither of these responsibilities is mutually exclusive. Both the state and the citizenry should fulfill their obligations to the best of their ability. In the words of John F. Kennedy (JFK), “… ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
JFK uttered these words during his (US) Presidential inaugural address in January of 1961. He is famous for, among other things, his role in enacting Civil Rights in the US even though he did not initially support the movement.
His own words were put to the test and when push came to shove, he stepped up his game for the sake of his country. Three years into his presidency, he paid the ultimate price for his beliefs and was assassinated at only 46 years old.
Neither of us desires a calling for this country that ultimately sacrifices our lives at tender ages.
Today, we know that we are unhappy with the leadership of this country. We may not have identified a candidate or leader whom we find worthy of that role. We may not even have it clear in our minds what we desire for our lives.
However, let us take this minor inconveniencing action in readiness to influence change when an opportunity presents itself.
I urge you to begin by registering as a voter. Then make a point of reading the draft Constitution so that you can determine what makes you happy or unhappy about it. When it is time for the referendum, you will be able to vote from a point of knowledge rather than the views of others.
Secondly, I urge you to conduct your own civic education on the benefits of voter registration. Let your friends know that they cannot be part of the change they desire, if they are not willing to make small sacrifices. Let them know that they are not entitled to complain about the lack of leadership or our inability to achieve Vision 2030, if they do not take their duties seriously. Let us all be ready to play our part come 2012.
The truth of the matter is that our country will continue to under-deliver unless we hold our leaders to higher standards and ideals. Together, let our votes send the message that we aspire for greater things for our beloved country and, more importantly, for our future.