By Jean H Charles
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Colombian Nobel Laureate in literature (1982), wrote: “It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.” This statement fits squarely Bill Clinton after his life as a two-term president of the United States; he has become the world’s president as he is getting older.
The Clinton Global initiative
Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol
Whoever is a regular at the annual Clinton Global Initiative Conference will be convinced that this qualification is not an exaggerated one or a self serving statement. Profiting from the United Nations General Assembly Meeting that takes place each September on the East Side of Manhattan, Bill Clinton holds its conference on the West Side at the Sheraton Plaza. There, kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers, global tycoons, celebrities, movie stars and philanthropists mingle together for a good cause, pledging to render this world better, under the baton of Bill Clinton.
I have been a regular of these meetings, albeit this year, I was not in New York at that time. Bill Clinton cajoled, inspired, and finally got all these leaders to give 10 million there, 20 million here to make the life of the poor and the wretched a little bit better. He has grown larger and wiser. He is whom Aristotle would call a summum bonum, a human being who is better than the other human beings.
The Caracol experience
He was this week at Caracol, Haiti, where the largest industrial park of the Caribbean was being inaugurated. He was instrumental in facilitating getting the anchor tenant, SAE-A, S and H Global and the funds from the USAID and the IDB, the Inter American Bank aptly run by Mr Luis Alberto Moreno to conclude the deal. The Park will generate more than 20,000 jobs when it is fully operational.
President Clinton has been in Haiti so often to shepherd this initiative under the presidency of two Haitian chiefs of state, Rene Preval and Michel Martelly that he admits that he should be paying taxes to the Haitian government as a resident of Haiti. On this trip he was not alone. He was accompanied by his wife, Hillary Clinton, the United States Secretary of State.
She and her husband came back to Haiti together this time, 37 years after the couple fell in love with the country in 1975 on their honeymoon just after completing law school. She was too busy this time for a second honeymoon, as she was due to return to the States the same day to attend the second presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
Air Force Three landed at the newly minted Cap Haitian international airport that received for the first time ever a Boeing 747 on its landing strip. Haiti, in spite of its configuration as the pendant of the Caribbean chain, the home of the tourist industry, had only one international airport, the one at the capital Port au Prince. The tourists can now travel from all points of the world directly to Cape Haitian, the historical Mecca of black culture and history, where rag-tag soldiers defeated the Napoleon Bonaparte army to liberate Haiti and the world from the scourge of slavery.
I have been in previous writing (The cycle of progress, Caribbean News Now, July 7, 2012) critical of the textile industry’s low wages and pitiful conditions of work. But I am also aware that Haiti, which failed to educate properly 85% of its population, must live at this present time with the textile industry until it takes steps to engage into a massive alphabetization, education and sophistication project.
I have visited the plant run by SAE-A. It fits its slogan: A new day in Haiti. Ecologically constructed by Estrella, with a system of air conditioning that uses recycled air and solar power, it responds to a new philosophy where quality in the material, respect for nature and citizen responsibility play a role in delivering a finished product that fulfills the demanding exigencies of a modern society that values human being as the center to and for excellence.
Inside the building light Haitian folk music keeps busy some 1,500 Haitian women cutting, sewing and ironing t-shirts that will be soon on the shelves of Kmart and Macy’s.
The evolution of Bill Clinton
One recognizes a summum bonum when he or she is your best friend without the other friend knowing that such intimacy exists beyond him and yourself. I have seen Bill Clinton so intimate with so many heads of state or captains of industries and celebrities and relating with so much ease and intimacy with each and every one that the relationship could not be a passing one. In fact, as he has said, he is worth his relationship with Haiti.
Rene Preval used to be a darling of the Clinton Global Initiative; this year Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe was invited. I am sure by the end of his mandate President Michel Martelly, with his wit and his born talent as an artiste, will be performing regularly for the kings and the queens at the Clinton Global initiative.
In a previous essay (Poverty alleviation and the Clinton Global initiative, October 13, 2008) commenting on the Clinton Global initiative, I urged the Clinton staff to move from the do-gooder philosophy of marrying philanthropy with projects to a philosophy of strengthening the concept of nation building. In my concern at seeing the end of misery and poverty in the world, I have finally coined a one sentence solution that strangely reminds me of Jesus the Christ’s precepts to gain salvation beyond this world: Love thy Lord with all your heart and love thy neighbor as you love yourself.
The world’s solution to war, misery and strife!
To solve most of the problems of the world, I believe most of the donor countries and agencies (the UN, OAS, EU and CARICOM) must pursue two goals.
- One is to create nations out of the countries and
- Two, create citizens out of the people of that nation.
Whether one is dealing with Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria or Central African Republic the problem is the same, the country has not evolved as a nation. The composites of the society do not bask in the same glory of the past while building the future together. The example of Haiti is a glaring one, 85% of the population that live either in the countryside or the slums of the cities are orphans of the state. They do not receive the same access to education, health care, housing and incubation to and for economic development.
The story is the same, albeit with an accompanying strife or war, in Syria, Yemen or Iraq. The Renan Doctrine of creating the sense of appurtenance is the key ingredient to bring peace and prosperity. In fact billions have been spent either in Haiti or in Iraq or in Afghanistan with poor results in the end because this equation was not in the balance.
The corollary point, the responsibility of the people to become citizens is the other side of the coin in the charge of the state to become a nation. The people of the nation must learn to become good citizens. A good citizen has a concern for preserving and building upon the patrimony bequeathed by the founders for future generations. A good citizen pays joyfully his taxes because the government uses the income wisely for the common good. The term citizen is either the one used by Aristotle or the one used in Haiti when the common man wants to describe an honorary person he is called: citoyen! It is bigger and larger than the legal term of rights and privileges by birth or legalization.
It is the concept of an educated person that cares for the prosperity of his nation in applying the rules of civic duties and civic responsibilities. He is not a nomad who is passing through, acting like a predator with no tomorrow. He will ensure that, in working together, no one is left behind. The resources of the state are not spoils that should be used only for the clan or the partisans. Access to resources for all is a key ingredient in creating a beautiful and prosperous nation.
The Clinton Global Initiative, with its armada of resources and goodwill can initiate that philosophy through its programs and the rest of the world will follow. President Clinton, as you are getting older, there are still more dreams for you to pursue! Building nations and creating citizens for those nations will render the world a better place to enjoy!