I refrain from using the statement “Only in America” as I believe it can be misleading if taken out of context. Why? Because a lot of what is happening in this country, including the good, the bad, and the ugly also do occur in some other countries. I will concede, however, that based on the scale of frequency and the willingness of the Press or News media to really cover such events and to disseminate it around the world, America has to be seen as first in her class. Part of the uniqueness of America as I said before in another article, is the fact that America as a nation treasures information probably more than any of her peers in the world. With more than 200,000 books and publications going into circulation per day quite apart from the information overload coming through the Information Super high Way, not to talk of Satellite Radio and Television including Cable, America leads the world in information gathering and dissemination.
Only two days ago in one of the High Ways leading to Long Island, New York, ABC Good Morning America and other television stations around the tri-state area, had covered a group of wild geese six of them, causing heavy traffic holdup at a particular intersection, two days in a row. Charles Gibson of Good Morning America did add a funny dimension to the observation when he joked that the geese were probably trying to hitchhike. I had thought so too, because I have witnessed several situations where squirrels that play around my yard around the summer time, have displayed unusual intelligence that are clearly beyond what I would normally ascribe to the animals domesticated or not, at least in my own part of the world in Africa. You hear or read about pet dogs coming to the aid of their owners, and taking some unusual step to get them some needed emergency assistance when they go into a coma or are in the early stages of suffering a heart attack. Right now, the nation is mourning the exit of Ray Charles who, in spite of his blindness from the age of seven, had dominated American Music for more than 50 years or so. Such stories are common here in America. But what is impressive is the fact Americans never shy away from publicizing such news for the benefit of the general public, which I think is remarkable.
The same observation has fired my imagination in wanting to do this piece as I read the biography of one of American youngest and smartest Presidents, the one and only William Jefferson Clinton who Nigerians have claimed as one of our own by adding one more name “OMOWALE” to his list of names. Omowale simply means in Yoruba language “our own child has come back to us” It is not for fun that the same. President Clinton was once described as the first American Black President. That description was earned, in recognition of all his policies in Government which have done so much to help the rainbow coalition of minorities and underdogs in this society, simply by creating in his own words, a Government that looks like America. President Clinton was not just out to help only the Whites or the privileged few in the society, his policies were designed to target the middle class and the poor, regardless of color or political labels, while at the same time taking into consideration the interest of the filthy rich as well. His eight years in office, regardless of the Monica distraction, engineered and blown out of proportion by the Republicans, were some of the best and most peaceful years this country and the world have ever known, with 22 million jobs created in this economy, and with the Budget Deficit turned into a great surplus, so generation of American children will not be saddled with so much debt even before they are born.
That is one more reason I am tempted to add one more name to his long list of names so he can be at par with most of his African colleagues who by reputation, are known to bear some of the longest names in the Guinness Book of Records. I call him Eni-Olorunda Omowale William Jefferson Clinton. Eni-Olorunda simply means “if God is with you, who can be against you.” This long names should bring him close enough to his former colleague and counterpart in Zaire, the late Citoyen Citoyen Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Waza Banga. Just don’t ask me for the meaning of that long name, because you are going to crack your ribs with laughter. I don’t intend to do that to any of you in this write-up.
Let’s now go back to the presidential handshake and how it has come to make a future President. I am referring to the handshake the young boy Bill Clinton at 12, and probably visiting the nation’s capital for the first time, had had with his idol, the great John F. Kennedy of blessed memory in the White House. Even though the young man, by his own admission in his recent interview with Dan Rather, had admitted he did not make much of that handshake at the time it occurred, but as time goes by, and with that picture suddenly making its way at JFK’s Presidential Library after the President’s death, that handshake had assumed a new life of is own, and must have influenced the young man who was destined to become the 42nd President of this great nation, 31 years later. That history-making handshake as the President is now explaining, had in part, informed and inspired his ambition to want to go into public service someday, and possibly become a senator. He himself had confided in Dan Rather to use his own exact words. “I would study hard, get ready and by chance, my time may come.” That chance indeed came for the little boy from Hope, Arkansas who had lost his own father, in an auto accident, when his pregnancy was only three months old. He was subsequently born and raised by a single mother with some help from his grand father the father of his mother. He, nevertheless, still managed to attend some Ivy League Colleges in Georgetown University, Oxford, and then Yale in his unstoppable odyssey to the American presidency at the age of 43, becoming the second youngest person to ever hold that office.
When you are a leader or a President some of the little things you do may turn out to be an important part of history. Our own President Obasanjo would do well to pay some attention to this observation. I am encouraged he is today talking of building a Presidential Library after he leaves office. I guess his imagination must have been fired, in some ways, by some of what he saw and heard at the state sponsored Burial for Ronald Reagan. It is a step in the right direction, although it is hard to believe that a President under whose administration University Education has suffered, as much as we know today, would now want to build a Presidential Library. If he pays that much of an attention to Education, his educational policies as President should have been a lot different from what they are, and what they have been. If a Presidential handshake can fire the imagination of a little boy to want to be President, I just wonder what a little boy watching the Nigerian President lose his temper before television cameras, picking up the whip, and thrashing a police man or using some profanities in public, is really supposed to learn from such a spectacle. That little boy will be lucky if he is not dehumanized for life.
I rest my case.