Value Thinking

At the end of the day, most successful people you’re going to interact with want to grow. If you’re not contributing to their growth, you’re not valuable to them.

Political leadership

The Most Important Role of a Politician: Public Education

Leading people’s imagination 

One of the most important forms of the progress of a society is change in public opinion or social psyche.

Everything begins in the mind. A nation becomes better when its people are more enlightened about positive possibilities.

People are inspired to think of greater possibilities when one ot more people among them make(s) possible things hitherto considered impossible or generally not thought of.

The auto industry greatly expanded when Ford toiled to make the car more affordable to more people. The computer industry greatly expanded when Apple put more computers on more people’s desks.

The anti-slavery cause in the United States became revolutionary when Northern politicians made it their campaign. African states got independence because the original fighters inspired a great many to fight for their land.

Public opinion and social thinking progress when influential people inspire the public to think, and to think more positively. Social thinking regresses when influential people inspire the public to think more negatively.

Politicians are influential in society. Their words and actions inspire a reaction in the public – positive or negative.

A more enlightened public does more; and an inspired public does great things

The leaders whom history ensures never to forget or understate are those who either inspired great destruction or inspired society to think about greater positive possibilities.

Hitler — destruction. Nelson Mandela — conciliation. JF Kennedy — intellectual society. Raila Odinga — effective opposition to Government tyranny. Martin Luther King Jr. — anti-segregation.

Many leaders have done many things – good or bad. But history considers the more inspiring leaders more monumental. And history, with its emphases and understatements, is a human construct; it will emphasize what its writers want to emphasize.

As historian Alexis D’ Tocqueville says in the second volume of Democracy in America, the great people are those who move the public in one direction or another, especially in terms of their political faith.

Since 1982, when Kenya officially became a multi-party democracy, Kenyans have never relented on expanding and protecting the democratic space. Today, there are numerous constitutional petitions in courts challenging actions of Government that are considered undemocratic.

In the small, and in the great things alike

The public education I’m referring to doesn’t always have to lead to revolutions or disruptive change in entire systems.

All it has to do is inspire the public to think differently and more positively about themselves as individuals and about the society at large.

Politicians can, through their words and actions, inspire technological innovation like Thomas Jefferson did (he was himself an inventor); or they can educate people on how to think about Government policy; or they can challenge people to engage in public discourses about public affairs.

Formulation of Bills and policies aren’t enough. Society must have a frame of mind to respond positively to those laws and policies. For instance, Kenya is one of the countries with the most numerous laws and policies governing corruption yet the level of corruption in our country is jaw dropping.

Why we need public shapers now more than ever

These are uncertain and difficult times for the majority of the public. More than ever, the public needs inspiration and challenge to think more positively about how we can better our life and our country.

More and deliberate engagement

Effective education is often deliberate. All politicians, from the President to the leader of the official Opposition, to the Member of the County Assembly, should all consider how they want to inspire and challenge their constituents.

They must engage more directly with the people more often. And they must be deliberate about their efforts.

This could take the form of individual effort or collective, coordinated initiative. Whatever the form, the time couldn’t be better.