Barack on the Rock: A Few Lessons Learned from the visit of President Obama

Posted: April 10, 2015 in Politics/Current affairs
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April 8 and 9 2015 will go down in the annals of Jamaican history as the approximately 1313 minutes that the so called “Leader of the Free World”, the incomparable Barack Hussein Obama had the honour of visiting THE Rock. Personally, it was an ambivalent or “multivalent” experience. I sat in awe of the symbolism of the first black US President visiting my little but tallawah homeland whilst simultaneously being slightly annoyed at the dislocation the visit caused as well as contemplating the extent to which as US President some of the policies undertaken under his watch have not been music to the ears of the developing world. Rather than get into the debate on the significance of President Obama, what I will do is highlight the lessons I have learned from the visit and the reactions of us the inhabitants of the rock.

  1. Jamaica is crying out for inspirational and unifying leadership – from the days of candidate Senator Obama people the world over and Jamaica included have been drawn to the ability of this man to communicate messages of hope and possibility. This visit, and particularly the town hall session, solidified how awe inspiring a speaker Mr. Obama is and how just the aura that he possesses was able to draw persons together of disparate political inclinations and social classes in just a general excitement. It also made it patently clear that in our current political landscape there is not one peer or even a close resemblance of a peer that commands this level of excitement or at least across political and social lines. It is clear that we are dying for a visionary leader that alongside having a vision is able to galvanise wide support for this vision through an ability to properly communicate it to us. Let us just hope that our leaders, current and future were taking notes beyond his formal wear style and the specs of Air Force One and the Beast.
  2. We as Jamaicans love a smooth talker – this is a related point to the above so I won’t spend as much time on it. The charismatic orator who is able to wax lyrical is like king in our society. Maybe it is our disdain for parochial dialects I don’t know but when a (wo)man is able to fluently and passionately and skillfully communicate sometimes I feel like we could be led down the slippery slope to hades quite willingly. By no means suggesting that Sir Bama had any such intentions but I must confess, when someone has the gift of gab and this is tinged with grasp of subject matter I too sometimes become transfixed.
  3. Jamaican state agencies actually have the ability to be efficient if the right inspiration hits them – this was a BIG lesson as well. In a country where there are roads that HAVE never been fixed and we are steadily fed a diet of “resource constraints” as soon as THE BEAST ( not the one with long finger nails) needed good road to drive on like magic so was it done. And not only done, but done in quick time. Some have complained why it took abama for these things to be done and lateron I will address this too, the clear positive we can take from this is that “dem bwoy deh cyan tek wi fi fool agen” because we now know what they are capable of and now we should hold them feet to the fire when we and our cars suffer.
  4. Jamaica is card carrying member of the global TMZ-ation movement – President Obama came here for primarily for the purpose of a bilateral state discussion, a multilateral meeting with Caribbean Heads of Government and a more personal interface with young leaders. Hidden in plain sight were these monumental manouveres in geopolitics and potentially huge agreements and all that kind of thing. But many of us could not help falling into classic “fan girl” and “fan boy” mode. And we can be forgiven for that but when our major media players get caught up in fan mode too its funny as hell. At one point I became an expert on all the features of Air Force One and the now legendary Beast (still not the Jago man). One media house experiencing potential dead air actually re-read verbatim what was essentially an ode to how cool the vehicles are. What was less conspicuous was digging into the meat of the agenda but eventually sanity and balance returned.
  5. President Obama is probably the coolest guy on Planet earth – whether you are the president of the Obama fan club or you think he is a “wasteman” one thing we cannot deny is that di man jus cool. “Greetings Massive…Wah gwaan Jamaica…Big up UWI…” Mr Pres just delieverd these patois attempts so smoothly. Not just that, of all the things that he could have done essentially his first order of Business was to make a stop at the abode of the King of Reggae – The Bob Marley Museum. I don’t know about you but the man smooth, personable relatable style shatters the mould of what a very very VIP world leader should look like and act like and for that I think no matter your political stance, if it was just a hombre to lyme with, you probably would want to hol a reason with the Bama.
  6. We as Jamaicans have some really self-loathing and “inferiority complex” tendencies – back to the largescale spring cleaning done to welcome Uncle Barack. Like seriously, this metaphor that “if your family from farrin a come visit yuh nuh clean up too” must be a joke. Let me use it to debumk it. If your yard so chaka chaka dat you almost have to rebuild in order to accommodate a guest den yuh jus nasty and yuh nuh rate yourself. Why are eyesores muck, unpaved and unmarked roads filled with vagrants okay for us daily but as soon as “somebody important” is on their way its time to spruce up. Clearly we don’t rate ourselves.

On this theme of not rating ourselves, last night a very popular Jamaican entertainer, whilst making the primary (but vastly ignored point)  that maybe rather than rushing to touch the hem of Mr. Obama’s garment we should be focusing on the injustice of Mr Obama’s country’s still having our beloved Marcus Garvey on record as a common criminal, referred to Mr Obama as a wasteman. This entertainer was soon to find out who a large section of Jamaica sees as their daddy. The onslaught of people who leaped to Mr Obama’s defence was startling to say the least. Not only that the greatest part of the reaction were the prayers that the entertainer LOSES HIS VISA. YES VISA. And the truth finally comes about. We don’t really care about people being rude to local public figures. Clearly dem a nuh nuhbady. So we post derogatory messages about our leaders, we laugh at the most crass internet memes and oh yes Clovis is like a national hero BUT WHATEVER YOU DO DO NOT SAY A ILL WORD ABOUT THE VISA DON. We really don’t like ourselves and we wonder why people belittle us sometimes but the mirror holds hol heap a truth. I pray we look into ourselves and stop hating ourselves,

  1. Last but definitely not least Jamaicans are the kings of “tek serious ting mek joke” – and I love this about us. From the day it was announced that Mr Obama was going to visit Jamaica social media was awash with the most hilarious tweets, posts and memes to anticipate and commemorate the occasion. From Obama smoking weed, to him having Jamaica coloured socks, not to mention him looking out the window of Air Force One at the lovely Lisa Hanna. The LOLs would not end. Here is a sample of the genius that we are capable of:

Barack Hussein Obama, love him hate him he is and will forever be one of the biggest figures in world history and for a day and a half Jamaica had its moment to share with this monumental figure and that is a moment we won’t forget, doubt it will “define a generation” as one too excited journalist suggested but we kid ourselves if we pretend this wasn’t an important moment.


  1. […] Barack on the Rock: A Few Lessons Learned from the visit of President Obama […]

  2. Prometheus says:

    I don’t always agree with everything you write, but I give this 10/10 Mr. Cunningham. For far too long the Jamaican people have settled for the mediocrity we call leadership. Our “fan boy” reaction to someone like Pres. Obama is only too understandable when one considers the lack of (visible) local quality. Our need to impress our visitors from abroad is a cultural things and any who say otherwise are simply seeking a weak legs to stand on. The fact that we HAD to go to such great lengths to make our Rock ‘presentable’ is another story (and I’ll refrain from attempting to define presentable). A lack of pride in ourselves and our country, where many of us are Jamaicans but don’t know what it means to love Jamaica, and the ever growing feeling that Jamaica is just the piece of land I happen to inhabit until I seek greener pastures elsewhere or die trying, will continue to stifle out nation till there is nothing left.

    The president will forever be judged by what has happened while he was the man in charge. He and his government have made significant positive change (for the US) and in the same breath have allowed too many injustices to happen with their domestic and foreign relations. His skillful maneuvering around the “Chinese colonization” of the US backyard although a political answer spoke to many truths both in words spoken and unspoken. Many of our nations ‘leaders’ applauded at his answer but I wonder how many will take his words and act on them. How many will seek to know what our Government does on our behalf, and speak out when it is not in our best interest? How many will themselves ask the hard question s and demand answers? I pray that these our young leaders will grow up and fulfill the promise they appear to be capable of.

    Good article. Keep Writing.

    P.S. Chronixx may have a point, but in this world, the gift you’re giving is ever bit as important as the wrapping you place it in. He will have to face the backlash as few will seek to look past his choice of phrasing. In the end, a little finesse may have gone a long way.


    • cunning1jm says:

      Don’t even think Chronixx needed any finesse. If thats what he thought and was willing to stand by it more power to him but while i campaign for his freedom of speech and thought and that obama is not beyond repproach apparently he is back tracking so I slowing down my defence.

      • Prometheus says:

        I suppose the intent behind his statements is what decides the appropriateness of his choice of words. If he intended to provide a wake up call to the nation that we shouldn’t be dazzled by his visit but seek to understand why and highlight that he despite his many achievements still has many failings then finesse is needed. If it was simply to stir up controversy then he hit the nail on the head. How often throughout history have good people and good messages fallen to the wayside because of lack of tact??

        Really good article once again. We need more critical thinkers like yourself engaging the political arena. Not necessarily in representational politics but as more outspoken observer to stimulate the minds of the masses.

  3. Rohan Tate says:

    Always a good read bro. I too was inspired and awed by the man’s slickness, given the level if responsibility he has. He epitomizes “cool like a cucumber”. Damn!!!
    Most importantly of all the points you made regarding his visit your first point stood out for me as deeper truth for Jamaica. We are indeed crying out for a symbol of hope, someone to inspire true change, Someone who embodies hope, truth, transparency, accountability, and genuine love for the masse with the ability to it. Someone who alters the negative psychological impact of slavery come straight up to now given the predicament our economy is in. One thing is clear is that this individual would affi dance abraad before him dance a yaawd, well atleast that’s how I see it.

    Would love to hear you discuss for me, the real reasons he visited Jamaica. Why now?, what are the implications of his visit on a global scale for Jamaica and the wider region?

    Always an inspiration.

    • cunning1jm says:

      Short answer, US influence in the region has waned. As the region has become less improtant to them and their focus has gone elsewhere other players hav sort of filled the vacuum and as overall US economic power is on the decline attempts must be made to revamp this influence in the face of a rising China.

      Respect for the kind words as well mi boss

  4. […] Barack on the Rock: A Few Lessons Learned from the visit of President Obama […]

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