From The Heart of a Champion to Good Governance: Making the Connection.

Jamaica is still basking in the after-glow of extra-ordinary performances of our athletes at the recently held World Championships. “How can we as a nation benefit from the success of our athletes?” is probably one of the most asked questions around town.  “How can we leverage Brand Jamaica?” they ask. 
Courtesy Jamaica Olympics
I practically fell off my couch (along with the rest of Jamaica I am sure) as I saw Usain Bolt stumble in his 100m semi-final race. I had tweeted just minutes before the race that it is impossible to correct any error over 100m, in ten seconds or less. Usain proved me wrong. He corrected his error, won that race and did it in under 10 seconds. Two hours later he went on to win the final race. That victory is attributable to more than physical ability. Usain Bolt demonstrated that he had what we refer to in Jamaica as a “Lion Heart”.
Novlene Williams-Mills, a track veteran over 400m and cancer survivor (VICTOR!), ran the leg of lifetime to inspire the world and set a new meet record. When you understand what cancer and its treatment does to your body, you realise that Novlene too opened up her “Lion Heart” and got the job done.
Much has been made about the sacrifices, financial and otherwise of Jamaica’s track athletes. A nation along with the rest of the world has watched with bated breath, hearts full of hope, lungs bursting along with the athletes as they have over and over again exploded across the finish line, sometimes against all odds.
By their own admission, many of our champions have attributed their success to the fact that they are Jamaican. They have cited their desire to make Jamaica proud and have spoken about their strong desire for victory and their relentless pursuit of it as an extension of them being Jamaican. Somehow, it seems, there is something about this Jamaican-ness that allows the Jamaican track athlete to pursue, with confidence, the top prize. It goes beyond the system that has at its core the ISSA Boys and Girls Athletics Championships that acts as an incubator and forces track talent to bubble to the top year after year. Adults and school children are witnesses to the immense raw talent that exists in our secondary schools. The champions of tomorrow are spotted here and opportunities overseas and indeed right here on the Rock ensure that transition from potential to actuality.
But Jamaica’s prowess on the track transcends any system. We, along with the rest of the world, believe that Jamaica is the sprint capital of the world. We see ourselves as sprinters and continue to dominate over the shorter distances. Our sprinters are our champions. We tell them they are. They know it. We position ourselves as champions of the sprints and plan, allocate resources and execute on our plans to dominate accordingly.
So we too watch in awe as our sprinters dominate and show to all in attendance that “Lion-Heart” that distinguishes the champions from the others that merely run fast. I sit on the edge of my bed and marvel at that “warrior-spirit” that forces the Jamaican athlete to decisively compartmentalise injury and unfortunate lane draws and focus with amazing single mindedness and clarity on The Goal: “mi ah go just run yah, Man!”
And as I marvel at this manifestation of the Lion-Heart and warrior spirit of our sprint champions, I have one question. My question is not “how can we leverage the success of our athletes to the benefit of Jamaica?” My one simple question is this: “How can we leverage the spirit of the Jamaican athletes and demand and obtain effective governance in Jamaica?”
Why is this “Lion-Heart” and this warrior spirit seemingly confined to the track, meanwhile back at home, the same Jamaica that produced giants on the track continues to wallow and indeed spiral downwards in a cesspool of crime, zero economic growth, poverty and political corruption? In the eternal words of Burning Spear, I recall some great men, and I think about our sons and daughters who have left our shores for foreign lands and in doing so have excelled and done well, and I once again wonder about our stagnation and even decline as an independent nation and I wonder how come.
I want to know how we can translate this “Lion-Heart” and warrior spirit to Jamaica Land we Love and conquer the world. Individual triumphs are to be admired and celebrated. But there is no reason why Jamaica should not likewise triumph. Short term fame for Jamaica because of the exploits of Jamaican track stars and any attendant economic spill-offs are not my quest. I want to see the spirit of the track champion rise up in each and every Jamaican and manifest in the form of complete dissatisfaction as to where we are as a country, and see us striving towards and demanding effective governance. Sometimes I wonder if our greatest strength as a people, our resilience in the face of hardship, is perhaps our greatest weakness too. Our ability to survive perhaps allows us to accept mediocrity in our leadership and governance norms, and ends up perpetuating a context where we do not demand more from our leaders.
Courtesy The Jamaica Gleaner
                                           
I am not relinquishing the role of the individual in changing the paradigm. I am not down playing the role of the individual and passing the blame on to Leadership. Not at all. But in national development, there really is no substitute for national vision and policy, and sound, effective governance that eschews corruption and has the good of the nation in the forefront of all its decisions and actions. So why do we, 53 years after independence from Britain, continue to accept the status quo of political corruption which is at the root of all that is wrong with Jamaica? Where is this “Lion-Heart” and this warrior spirit that has birthed champions on the track and yet seems to elude us as a collective? We choose to distance ourselves from the democratic processes and the few that have made the connection between effective governance and national well-being continue to toggle between orange and green hoping for better.
Governance has everything to do with a decision making process that supports a national vision. What do we want Jamaica to look like? How do we envision our lives and the lives of our families in a Jamaica that is prosperous and safe and where everyone has the same opportunity to make good on his or her personal dreams? And what of the quality and types of decisions that national leaders make in furtherance of this vision?
Good governance, effective governance looks like this: it is accountable, it is transparent, it follows the rule of law, it is responsive and it is equitable and inclusive.
Check it: effective governance puts in place structures and systems that make it difficult for political corruption to flourish. And having instituted these structures and systems, effective governance ensures that they are not handicapped, that their role is respected and that they are allowed to work. Effective governance ensures that limited resources are allocated in order to get the best return on investment in support of the national vision. So under effective governance, elementary education is never short-changed for example. Under effective governance, justice looks the same no matter how you speak or how you look or where in Jamaica you come from. Under effective governance, health care is properly resourced and administered. Under effective governance, security forces really do protect, serve and reassure.
Imagine a Jamaica where decision making is not based on box-ticking and appearances. Imagine a Jamaica where national contracts are not formed with personal enrichment on the part of the public administrator/leader as part of the decision making matrix.
Under effective governance Jamaica would not have to waste time seeking to exploit the success a few on the track, because a sound national vision and operating plan and engine would already be at work, ever moving towards national greatness and prosperity.
That we are already a nation of lion hearts possessed of a warrior spirit has been demonstrated. Now we need to wake up and channel our natural propensity for victory into demanding more and not settling for what has been dished out to us. 

Usain St. Leo Bolt, SUPERSTAR!

Here’s an open letter to Mr. Bolt:

Dear Usain:
I just wanted to go on record at this time with my real feelings about you.  I am puzzled at your own reticence in styling yourself a living legend…and as for Mr.  Rogge’s insistence that you are a mere icon and not a legend…Ha!  He is simply in awe of your natural talent and is fearful that you could smother it with youthful vanity (remember his issues with your chest thumping in Beijing?) and he needs you to continue your legendary performances which are the main attraction at this year’s Games.  He really needs you to fill stadia in the next Games.
Listen, Usain: you became a legend in my eyes when you smashed the WR in both the 100 and the 200m.  And it is not just the fact that you did it, but it is how you do what you do!  I am ashamed to admit that I had to ask who came third in the recent 1,2,3 Men’s 200m sweep in London 2012.  You see, my eyes were on you and you alone from the beginning of the race to the end.  That’s how it always is, Sir.  I think I literally stop breathing every single time I see you run a corner.  It starts with you slowly uncurling your totally unsuitable sprinting frame (yeah right!) in such an ungainly manner from the blocks, so infuriatingly slowly and then…you become like this massive anti-gravity Transformer who just defies the laws of inertia on the turn and then you simply expand into an even more massive unbeatable machine for the last 40 or so meters of your race.  Such power, such long strides and such speed! 
Yes, Asafa Powell started this whole sub 10 attack on the 100m.  But I don’t watch the races because of Asafa.  I don’t dream about what he will do next.  You see, for me, I have to insist that it is not just about the speed.  Again, it is how you do it that sets you far apart from men who you beat by mere seconds.  Your antics before and after your race speak to a facet of your own personality that I find absolutely charming.  You are a fun-loving person!  And since one of my own personal mantras is: “I eschew unhappiness and unhappy people”, I am totally charmed by your joie de vivre.   It’s natural, it’s infectious and it reminds us that it is possible to achieve fantastic outcomes without looking like or behaving like the destiny of the universe rests on what I am about to do here and now.  
Don’t think I don’t see you acknowledging the young people who are tasked with carting your basket of gear off the track before the race starts.  Nobody taught you to do that!  Don’t think I’ve forgotten how you prodded Asafa to certain victory in that 4 x100m relay.  Don’t think we don’t realize how you’ve deliberately and genuinely motivated young Blake and Weir.  You whispered something to Weir at the start of the now historic Mens 200m in London 2012, didn’t you, when you saw this awesome young man buckling at bit before the start of the race.  He ended up with a bronze medal from an awesome field of runners…  It is not lost on me, Usain how you have the press eating out of hands.  You actually stop and talk to them and you recently took away a camera and literally turned the tables on them.  Did somebody suggest to you that this would be a charming gesture, sure to endear you more to the press and your adoring public?  Methinks NOT.  You see, Usain St. Leo Bolt…you are a Natural.  My children are sick of me saying: “Bolt is such a Superstar.”  It’s how you do what you do.  You win races in outstanding fashion, you frustrate top athletes who run out their heart strings to beat you only to be relegated to 3rd and 5th and 6thwith tears in the eyes and a mixture of despondency and awe in their hearts.  You charm children and princes.  You quietly help people…I recall your donations to the earthquake stricken people of China and your quiet donation to Sam Albert  to help her finance her own Olympic journey.  
And I think it is because your success has not been handed to you on platter, that I am in even more awe of you.  I love Glen Mills for taking you and working with you when you just did not know how to deal with your twisted spine and resultant repeated hamstring injuries.  Without that early intervention, there would be no Usain Bolt, Superstar.  You accepted the guidance and the rest, as they say, is history. 
I love it that you train right here on the rock.
I love it that you make no secret of the fact that winning is what you do.  You are competitive in a manner not seen in many athletes. 
I love it that you live your own life.
I love it that you have made and will make so much money. 
Yes, when Blake beat you at the National trials some weeks ago, I was worried.  I really was.  I wanted to see more of your utterly disrespectful victories!  It wasn’t until I saw you in the 100m semis in London that I truly relaxed and hugged my family and shouted: “HE’S BACK!  HE’S GOT THIS!!!!!!”
I’m going to share my personal fantasy where you are concerned: (hushed tones) I get goose bumps when I think about you running the 400m flats. Usain!  You and the 400m…picture it…feel it….see it!  My other country man, Kirani James (I’m Grenadian too you know) is a formidable athlete too, but there’s enough room for both of you.  Yes, yes, yes…I know training for what I consider to be the Ultimate Sprint is horribly hard and I know you would rather party.  But here’s the thing: I am hoping that you will soon, naturally, temper your partying and just decide to mash down the 400m.  Note I did not say “stop your partying”.  
Juliet Cuthbert recently made the point that many athletes go the college route and we college grads all know what it means to put the P in Party.  You opted not to go the college route, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t get to place the P, now does it!  All I ask is that you remember MODERATION.   Take care of yourself.  Protect your body, Usain.  Asafa seems to be a better motor car driver than you.  Let him do the driving.  Hahahaha!  Hold your family close.  Our families have the knack of keeping us grounded.  Guard your mind and heart and keep moving forward.
Good luck to you and the team in the relay finals later today.  I feel that something great is afoot. I’ll be going with my daughter to Half Way Tree to watch the race with the thousands of others that will bring traffic to a standstill this afternoon. 
Oh!  We will both celebrate birthdays on August 21 week after next.  Happy Birthday when it comes!  I expect to be living it up with my family and Mickey Mouse.
With a full and grateful heart , I remain one of your millions of fans across the globe.
Rock on,
Kelly  
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