Lessons from the US Presidential Campaign

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On November 8, we shall know who will replace our Kenyan son Barack Obama in the White House when his term comes to an end in January 2017.

What is certain is that it will be either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. These two candidates have been on the campaign trail since they won nominations from their respective parties; Hillary for the Democratic Party and Trump for the Republican Party.

We have been treated to real high drama in this American campaign, which will go in history as the most controversial.

It has been one conducted with a lot of anger, hatred and the kind of insults one would not have imagined of leaders in a country like America.

It has also been one where the candidates’ past has followed them, to their detriment, if poll showings are anything to go by.

It has also laid bare the intolerance of the American society to sex, religion and race. It, indeed, has made some third world countries politicians and their bad politics look much better.

I don’t believe this is the kind of democratic America the founding fathers of the United States of America envisioned. They must be turning in their graves!

Watching CNN has never been so interesting, hilarious indeed! A towering Trump breathing heavy over Hillary’s shoulders during the second debate was not only threatening but also left one wondering what kind of president a man who has no self-control would make.

Who needs to watch another comedy in a long time to come after being treated to the three presidential debates?

These campaigns would have remained a big joke if we were not talking about the USA. The United States of America – the leader of the free world.

Who would have thought the Republican Party would nominate Donald Trump as their candidate for the most powerful office in the world?

The party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan? They, too, must be turning in their graves! But these elections will be history in the making – America is likely to have the first female president in Hillary Clinton or the abrasive billionaire in Donald Trump, who has threatened to undo everything Obama did in eight years.

The choice is with the American people and we are only observers. Every country gets the leaders it deserves and America is no different.

But America is such an important global player that no matter where you sit in this planet, you simply can’t ignore the American peoples’ choice. One way or another, it will affect you.

That be as it may, I have thoroughly enjoyed following up this presidential campaign and have many take-away. Valuable lessons that anyone aspiring for public office must seriously think about.

One, your shadow follows you wherever you go. Perhaps Trump thought he was invisible due to his financial might when he was groping and kissing women (and who knows what else) without any shame and boasting about it.

Since that shameful video was aired, many women have come up to speak about being sexually harassed by Trump – this without a doubt has cost him votes and reputation and he is unlikely to ever recover.

Indeed, his dream of becoming the next American president now seems like a pipe dream. Hillary is also not without her past. Those emails will not leave her. Really poor judgment that may also have cost her the presidency if she was running against another republican other than Trump.

So the lesson here is, watch your step if you aspire for public office. This is so true today when your secrets are only a hacker away.

Think about those posts on social media, those unpalatable emails, those videos or pictures you take in the bedroom, the things you say while in other people’s company and yet you don’t know who has an open microphone, or even the interviews you give and perhaps say things you might regret later.

Two, wisdom is worth more than money or gold. Tame your tongue so you know what to say and when, and what should never come out of your mouth.

Michelle Obama’s words of wisdom at the democratic convention: “When they go low – we go high,” reminds us of those times we engage people we should totally ignore otherwise we stoop to their level. Just imagine if Hillary took Trump’s high road?

A man who calls Ted Cruz’s wife ugly and to add salt to injury calls his father J F Kennedy’s killer? A man who labels Jeb Bush ‘low-energy’ and goes on to tell him ‘his mother must be ashamed of him?’ A man who calls Hillary ‘crooked’ and ‘nasty woman’ in a televised debate?’

When you have wisdom, you remain the bigger person, rise above the situation, no matter the level of aggression, and also bring civility.

We saw Hillary remain presidential and calm under great aggression from Trump during the debates. This is something we all can emulate.

Three, learn to tell the truth and to say sorry. How can you be a leader if you deny everything you said when it does not favour you? And is sorry such a hard word? We have seen the mastery of lies in this campaign, the chest-thumping and all those ‘Is’: I did this, I achieved this, I made a lot of money… Leadership is about embracing others and their opinion.

It is teamwork. Great leaders say ‘we’. We did this; we achieved that…
There are just too many lessons from this comedy, which hopefully will be close to an end or will have come to an end by the time you read this.
emathu@parents.co.ke

Published November 2016

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