I got a short text from my friend Estella at 8:06 am ET: ‘President Obama’s speech in Ghana this morning is at 8:10, pass this text onto all of your African friends.’
So that’s how my day started on the Saturday Obama was in Ghana. It was a little euphoric for me, as I passed the text on to a few Ghanaians I knew scattered across America. It felt a little like synchronized swimming and I didn’t want to be late. Millions of Ghanaians would be watching in Ghana and thousands more across the globe. I was giddy with excitement.
CNN truly annoyed me on Saturday, for so many reasons. So there were technical difficulties, stemming from some central feed in Ghana. But our President starts to speak, and CNN cuts away to commentary? I did not hear a word President Mills said, and I had been anticipating his speech as well. However, CNN made it completely blatant they were only interested in their President, and not ours, shameful for an international media really, and particularly rude.
- Advertisement -
CNN just reminded me how far away from home I truly was. I was completely dependent on one source, which obviously didn’t hold any allegiance to my country. I couldn’t switch from GTV to TV3 to Metro and wherever else. As I was waiting to hear Obama talk, I remembered the day Bill Clinton came to Ghana, that infamous day that still lives on in the memory of the Secret Service and the international media; that moment when the ‘Ghanaian hospitality’ truly came to light. I woke up at 3 am that day and went with my friend Cassandra to stake out a suitable location at the Independence Square. This was Bill Clinton, nothing or no one was going to keep me from seeing him.
Cassandra and I were lucky enough to be-friend a couple of Secret Service agents who were perched on a rooftop, so we had an incredible vantage point. It also meant, thankfully, we were not with the masses when that ‘love surge’ (as Wolf Blitzer calls it) happened. It was an incredible moment for me, that whole day, from the crack of dawn to the end of the day. I was there when the very first American president visited Ghana.
I think it is incredible that three American presidents in a row have visited Ghana. I believe it is a testament to each of the Presidents who were in power, but it is an even bigger testament to the people of Ghana themselves. We are the constant factor. We were there in 1998, 2008 and 2009. It is our hard work, our dedication and our commitment to democracy that brought each of those Presidents to Ghana. I take nothing away from President Rawlings, President Kufour or President Mills. But to me who’s in power at that time is almost irrelevant. Would Obama have stayed away from Ghana if it was Nana Addo in office? No, he still would have come, as long as the factors he listed for coming remain true – strong democracy. His visit is an acknowledgment of 16 years of democratic governance. And it is the people of Ghana who ensured it happened the way it happened.
Finally, CNN cut to Obama as he started to speak and President Obama did what he always does – he inspired. I will not post the whole speech here; most of you have read it all already. For me, it was a deep, true, and stirring speech.
It was an inspiring speech, no doubt, the type that gives you goose pimples, that makes you feel you can truly do anything. You can accomplish anything. But it is hard to sustain goose pimples, they’re there one minute and then they’re gone. It’s hard to feel inspired on a consistent and daily basis, to make a difference in your life based on one speech you hear. Some people can, thousands changed their lives based on Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. I am just not sure if as a country we are there yet. At the airport, Mills was right when he asked Obama to visit again soon. We will need to have this message drilled into our heads repeatedly before I think it will all sink in. A friend of mine joked that we need a ‘Buddy’ system with Obama; a big brother little brother type of thing. I suspect some among us feel differently about life now after hearing Obama’s words. Some among us are still shivering from the words of the speech and will do something. The majority, unfortunately, and sadly, will be back to square one.
I believe we need inspiration from within. We cannot live, grow or develop based on this one speech alone. It just became very clear to me we need our own Obama. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a President, it would be nice if it was, but doesn’t have to be. It can be, and should be, anyone. Obviously, it is better if political, religious and media personalities were this inspirational and motivating. Too often, personalities in the limelight bathe in negativity and discord. Obama made one thing painfully clear for me, I really can’t stand such negative and divisive talk anymore. Even throughout his campaign for Presidency, Obama never spoke negatively, because he knew he was coming from a disadvantaged corner. We need to remember in Ghana, that we’re coming from a disadvantaged corner as well. We have a long way to go in our democracy and our economic growth. It’s far from over. And our greatest assets are not oil or cocoa. It is the people.
It is very easy to be jaded, and not believe in words, or speeches. But if you look at some of the most revered and honored men in this world, it was through their words that they inspired. From Gandhi, to Nkrumah, to Mandela, to Martin Luther King to Obama, they’ve changed history and lives through their words. Let’s think about it for a minute, would Ghana really have won independence if Nkrumah wasn’t such a powerful and inspirational orator? Maybe, maybe not. Whatever the case may be, Nkrumah inspired the people of Ghana to take control of their future. And as Obama said in his speech, we need to do that again.
I’m glad President Obama visited Ghana. Despite CNN’s consistent need to complain about the central feed (to absolve themselves from blame), at least their commentary throughout most of the day was centered on Ghana. Ghana got major publicity. I sat in front of the TV literally from 8 am to 4 pm. I didn’t have lunch, seriously. If my mother reads this, she will be upset, but I just didn’t want to miss any rare moment. And then after 4 pm, it was over, Obama was gone, the euphoria subsided and my life continued.
Obama’s speech can not sustain us, not even for the rest of the month. It can’t sustain me even to next week. I strongly believe Ghana needs to be littered with influential personalities who have dreams, who are inspired, who inspire others and move people to action. I need to hear this type of speech again, not from Obama, but someone, or people, within my own country, those who burn with a hunger to make a genuine difference. That is just my prayer and my wish.
Until then, I will make sure I have lunch, no matter who is giving a speech. I can’t help build Mother Ghana on an empty stomach.
About the writer:
Boakyewaa Glover, a former TV3 News Anchor, currently works as a Consultant in Atlanta. She maintains a ‘Life and Relationships’ blog, www.boakyewaaglover.com. Her first novel, CIRCLES, is due for release in October, 2009.