In cricketing parlance, President Barack Obama is set to play a big innings. He is doing and saying all the right things. He was correct to authorize the use of force against the Somalia pirates and he is doubly right, as far as I am concerned, to lift travel restrictions to Cuba.
Of course, it is early days yet and we cannot comment, with certainty, on the impact of the multibillion dollar stimulus package. From all reports, nevertheless, confidence has been restored and 55 per cent of Americans believe Obama has the correct plan to turn the American economy around.
What we can already deduce from his near 100 days in office is that President Obama has cleaned up America’s image abroad, by mastering the art of winning friends and influencing people.
It would be uncharitable of me to reflect at this time on the failure of his predecessor to do likewise, but we all know that prior to the November, 2008 Presidential election, America was in dire need of friends and admirers. It needed an image makeover!
The experts may not wish to speak about it, but part of America’s problem over the last eight years, stemmed from its failure to cultivate new friends and to attend to those it had. Simply put, the country was rubbing most people the wrong way. The demise of Rumsfeld did not stem the tide of unpopularity and downright hatred that was engendered by the former administration. Dick Cheney in particular will long be remembered as a Vice President, America could easily have done without.
Okay, Dear Reader, by now you are asking ‘Hartley, where are you going with this? What has this to do with the serious issues that confront Barbados? This is nothing for Under the Microscope’.
You’re wrong. It is definitely for Under the Microscope and it is most relevant to Barbadians. We are witnessing a gradual return to world supremacy by a country whose immediate past leaders did much to propel the country in the opposite direction. For countries to like you, trust you, or want to do business with you, they must first admire and respect you. In many instances, their attitude towards you is mirrored by their image and perception of your leadership.
That leadership must not only be knowledgeable, it must also be graceful and polite. It must not be cantankerous, arrogant or bull headed in approach or attitude. Members of the former Bush administration were cantankerous, arrogant and bull headed and the world responded in a negative manner. Here in Barbados, little is known or spoken of the extent to which Barbados suffered in recent years as a result of such negative traits of leadership.
It is one thing to see a person on television all made up and smiling as a result of proficient spin doctors. But it is another to observe that individual on the regional and international scene and also to listen to the reviews and the attitudes of others towards what they perceive as arrogance, lewd and cantankerous behavior.
This country suffered immensely in the last eight years as a result of such. Barbados became an irritant to many, as a result of the “puffed-up” attitude of some who flew its flag. There were instances where persons refused to attend conferences and to participate in discussions, merely because of the caustic and abusive attitude of he, who thought he reigned supreme. Indeed, there is at least one Caribbean leader whose failure to visit Barbados or support any initiative proposed by Barbados in the last four years, was neither coincidental nor coincidental.
Leaders who are in office too long, have a way of ticking people off. Many become “giddy” with power. They wind up tearing down all that they built in their formative years. Even though they are recognized as gifted and as having a contribution to make, their attitude and sometimes arrogance has a way of tuning people out.
America is exhaling once again as a result of fresh, new, inspired and inspiring leadership. So too is Barbados! Persons come to the table knowing they can count on reasoned and reasonable approaches to problem solving. No longer does a colleague have to fear being abused or denigrated. No longer will expletives and verbal abuse characterize that which emanates from behind the Broken Trident. There is today a dignified approach to problem solving. There is the absence of a ‘know all’ attitude. The ‘take it or leave it, Barbados does not need you’ attitude has been replaced by one of collaboration, cooperation and mutual respect.
The big and mighty United States of America recognizes that arms and attitude, or lack thereof, will not solve its problems of 2009. Barack Obama has become his country’s Principal Ambassador, and he is making friends for America around the Globe. So too is David Thompson of Barbados!
Once again, it is possible for a leader of Barbados to request a meeting of Caricom and for all 13 leaders to drop whatever they are doing and attend. Once again, it is permissible for a leader of Barbados to speak with confidence and authority on behalf of the regional grouping; once again it is possible for Barbadians to proudly proclaim their citizenship across the region, without being reminded of how brazen, arrogant and downright rude their leaders are.
As is the case in the United States of America today, in Barbados, it is truly amazing what a timely change of leader has done.