Varsity students’ categorisation should inspire hope
The audacity of hope! The world over, political campaigns raise the spirit of the electorate by adopting an uplifting motto. Barack Obama said “Yes we can” when running for president. It was the audacity of hope, the season of possibilities where anybody could do anything and realise their dream.
George Bush proposed “Moving America Forward”. Bush succeeded the charismatic Bill Clinton, who had succeeded George’s father. Clinton’s slogan is an all-time memorable: “The economy, stupid.”
The US is one big sales country putting up a good show year after year. America makes Superball appear the most incredible show on earth when it is just a local event. The Oscars are something else in terms of drama and elegance.
America may not have invented the media, but they sure know what to do with it. In American politics, the creatives retreat every four years to create slogans that carry the heart of the 330-million nation. If it is not Obama’s “Yes we can”, it could be Trump’s “Make America Great Again”.
Sometimes, it is a simple “The winning team” of Adlai Stevens and Estes Kefauver, or just “I still like Ike” of Dwight Eisenhower that focussed on “peace and prosperity”.
Sunny slogans carry the hope and dreams of people, and promise them a better day. Ronald Reagan’s romantic “city upon a hill”, the “beacon of hope”, is another example. You can’t blame Americans for their optimism; it is in their political grammar.
India, that other great democracy, is never left behind in political shows. Lal Bahadur Shastri campaigned on the slogan: “Jai jawan, jai kisan” (hail the soldier, hail the farmer). Nearly 40 years later, Atal Bihari Vajpayee would revive and modify the slogan to jai jawan, jai kisan, jai vigyan (hail the soldier, hail the farmer, hail science).
While the world is focused on the spirit-lifting motto in their campaign, it baffles the problem with Kenyan creatives. The categories the education think tanks devised regarding university students are depressing. All they could come up with was a gloomy, disempowering “needy”, “less needy”, “extremely needy” and “vulnerable” labels!
This is not surprising for a country obsessed with hustling. Undoubtedly, the nation’s political class are great communicators and got the nation hooked and proud of hustling – no higher dream, no optimism, just hustling. That those in the education sector, the citadel of enlightenment, thought and creativity, could not think better speaks more of Kenya as a nation with no higher dream.
People need to be motivated, driven, and empowered. For years, Starehe Boys has been inspired by “Natulenge Juu”. The University of Cambridge has hinc lucern et pocula sacra, from here light and sacred draughts. Kenya must do better. The main tool at the disposal of a communicator is symbol – words. Words must be cleverly crafted to stir hope and aspirations. Words are labels that confer status, form pictures, and create mood. They drive people to become.
The Jewish nation of Israel has, over the years, been sinned against than sinning. But they grab themselves and turn their dry lands into an oasis of hard work, wealth, and envy. Words of hope nurture the Jewish kid. While an average parent finding their child watching TV may see a couch potato, the Jewish mother sees a TV critique.
It is the difference between a watchman and a security officer, a stupid student and one unlocking his potential, a woman and a lady, a washroom and a water closet. Words!
The Luo may have a point residing in a mansion instead of a house and dining out instead of just eating out. It is not a boast; it is an aspiration, a dream, faith that the best is yet to come, but you have to picture now where you want to go. The tools for that exercise are words.
This grammar of hope should inform a nation’s discourse: sell hope, a dream, a promise to which citizens can work towards. Yes, a “city upon a hill”, a “yes we can”, “the winning team”, and move away from this “vulnerable” and “needy” mindset.
— The writer is Dean, School of Communication, Daystar University