2017 is a new year and a fresh opportunity to write our own narrative. If we don’t others will do it for us. So Carpe Diem and seize the day!
Sunday for me is a day to recoup, reflect and regroup. This Sunday was no different except it has coincided with Donald Trump’s first weekend in The White House. And while I imagine that settling in Trump style maybe a little different to that of you and me, the event got me onto YouTube and watching the Obamas and their numerous farewell speeches – like Barack Obama himself said, when he eventually got to Joint Andrews Base, before becoming another you and me – “I feel like we’ve been milking this somehow”. Maybe. But whatever event, platform or opportunity he had to “Obama Out”, I was struck by his grace, good humour, strength and his consistent message of hope – “Yes we can, yes we did” – his unwavering belief in the American people and its democracy – in the face of well… let’s just say someone completely different. As a PR professional, this man is a masterstroke – calm, collected, persuasive, human and on point every time.
“Whether you are young or whether you’re young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your president – the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago. I’m asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.”
Time for South Africans to take back their future
If Americans are waking up to their responsibility to be the change and to find their voice, then I believe us South Africans are being encouraged to do the same. Just last week, a local article on IOL written by Tinyiko Maluleke, stated, “It’s time for South Africans to realise they’re on their own – and take back their future.” The article is erudite and succinct and applies to everyone no matter what your race, background or political persuasion.
“In the 1970s the Black Consciousness (BC) movement coined the slogan ‘black man (sic), you are on your own’. Forty years later, South Africans seem to have come full circle, back to the ‘on your own’ moment.”
The article continues, “With the [leading party] currently floundering under the weight of Nkandla, state capture, Sars wars, factionalism, the rot within several state-owned enterprises and the spectre of a government at war with itself, South Africans are slowly beginning to realise that they may be on their own.”
His sentiments are echoed in another article last week – this time in Daily Maverick – by human rights lawyer Matthew du Plessis.
“In South Africa we should be prepared for the effects of the 2016 year in politics to be felt for years to come. Instead of a warning, however, this should be a call to responsibility for all of us. And again:
“Step up now, because there are millions of people in our country who face the greatest challenge of their lives over the next few years – 2016 is going to look like a golden year in comparison for them. They will be under threat that will increase in proportion with how much progress good makes over evil, right until the end of the struggle, while we either sit and watch, or stand and act.”
“This is just a little pit stop. This is not a period, this is a comma in the continuing story.” Barack Obama.
Be the change you want to see
These articles articulate what I have been feeling for a good long while. If events of the last year have shown us anything, it’s that change is up to all of us. The slogan: Be the change YOU want to see is no more apposite than right now. And while I looked with anxiety in 2016 as things unfolded here, I also learned that I was not alone either in my concern or in the desire to do something to change.
Pleiades central mission has always been to use our skills and influence to bring a shift and to hopefully create something better in the world around us.
Years ago, my daughter Sarah sent me a post card of a drawing done by early 20th century German Artist Kathé Kollwitz and her now immortal words “I am in the world to change the world”. This is an adage I continue to live by. Last year, I was involved in projects with both the public and private sector, which aim at fostering a better understanding between these often conflicting sectors and to facilitate entrepreneurship.
Business needs to find its voice
While my business is to encourage clients to find their voice in the marketplace before their competitors do, I believe as that business in South Africa overall still needs to own its voice. In conversations I had last year with Tim Cohen, Editor of Business Day, he would say: “Business in South Africa has been notoriously bad in articulating its value and contribution the economy.” Well business if you don’t stand up and be counted – others will not hesitate to frame your position for you in order to fulfil their own particular agenda.
I have the privilege of working alongside one of Jo’burg city’s regional directors. Smart, black and beautiful she’s turning township empty lots (otherwise subject to illegal occupation) into market gardens and employment opportunities for elderly residents, among other many innovative approaches to make impoverished areas a better and more safer place. Her efforts are not always appreciated and frequently undone – but she continues to persevere.
Like the great Queen B said – also in 2016 – “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade” – and just look what she did.
So I encourage you: Carpe Diem – Seize the Day, this year of 2017 and see for yourselves just what can be accomplished, if you will it to.
Every best wish, you wish for yourselves.