President’s Day is an unusual federal holiday in that it lacks any sort of protocol in its celebration. There are no traditional fireworks or huge meals. If anything, it is most associated with shopping given the overwhelming number of sales events advertised around this day.
The holiday was originally implemented in 1879 to honor George Washington and while the federal holiday is still “Washington’s Birthday”, the day has become inclusive of all Presidents. Although it lacks the fanfare of some other holidays, one cannot overstate the criticality of the office of President of the United States and the global impact of its leadership in creating systemic change.
Whether it was Franklin D. Roosevelt stating in his second inauguration speech that “the test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little” or President John F. Kennedy’s challenging us to “Ask not what your country can do for you…” in his famous inauguration speech, Presidents have always sought to inspire and push us with their vision and to look toward the bigger picture — a national picture and now a global picture — and invest in others.
In remarks to the United Nations on Sustainable Development Goals in September, 2015, President Barack Obama said, “We affirm that supporting development is not charity, but instead is one of the smartest investments we can make in our own future. After all, it is a lack of development…that helps fuel so much of the tensions and conflict and instability in our world.”
Supporting development is not charity. It is not just about giving some money to a non-profit and enjoying the tax incentives. It is about investing heavily in world R&D so that humanity grows stronger and everyone enjoys the opportunities that so many of us take for granted. It is investment where the return is not about capital gains, but about human gains. It is a portfolio built for exponential growth as each life you impact becomes an agent of change and impacts many more.
Sustainability comes from ownership. Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. The old saying is often used because it remains true to this day. We must invest in the tools that will help others succeed on their own.
At Asante Africa Foundation, our efforts are directed towards supporting these goals. We are focused on achieving these by leveling the playing field for marginalized people and providing education and skills training for young innovative entrepreneurs. We work within the existing educational system, partnering with educators, influencers and governments to effect change that they own and can build on. These youth have talents and dreams. All they need is opportunity — a fraction of what is available to any United States citizen. How many of us had trouble with school because we simply had no electricity to study by or enough food in our belly to concentrate? How many of us were afraid to go to school out of fear of being sexually assaulted on the way there? How many of us were unable to attend school because we were married off as children?
After 10 years of operation, it is clear to us that it does not take being a President to effect change on a global scale. You have that ability to. Employ key leadership traits of a President; effective communication, organizational capacity, vision, and emotional intelligence, and see where it takes you. The only question you need to ask yourself is what you will commit to doing with that ability.