Several events took place in the month of June which are significant and worthy of discussion long after their passing. I thought I should capture them in my blog. I have chosen three events; they are quite different but could also be said to be similar in their impact to the psyche of most followers of current events, social or political. On Saturday morning we woke up to the sad but inevitable news that Muhammad Ali had died on Friday 3rd June in Arizona. He was 74. Muhammad Ali had been afflicted by the degenerative neural condition of Parkinson’s disease. Medically this condition is still incurable. Ali was the Greatest Heavyweight boxer the world has seen. He did not only proclaim it himself as such because of his self-assurance or constant bragging. By many standards of judgement, he was!!
Personally I thought Muhammad Ali, crowned the World Heavyweight Champion, was a show off! Yes, he was ‘pretty’, handsome, tall and the ‘best boxing champion the world has ever seen’. Mike Tyson came along but his power was brutish, his behavior unbridled and he ended up serving time for rape. He did not match Ali on many levels. True, this is not a comparison contest. There has not been one like Ali.
Another historical event this month was the victory of Hillary Clinton as the first woman Presumptive Nominee for the Democratic Party for the November 2016 presidential elections in the United States of America. She racked up the required number of delegates in 20 primary elections to formally be adopted as presidential candidate. This is a first in the 240-year history of US independence. The President of the United States is the highest elected office in the land. Even by American standards this is a big deal for a woman. All things considered it could only have taken a person of the caliber of Hillary Clinton to realistically have a shot at this title. Apart from being a former First Lady as wife to President President Bill Clinton (1994-2001), Hilary is a high achiever in her own right. She is a former elected Senator representing New York in the American Congress. A lawyer by profession, she is a graduate of Yale University, one of the small number of elite institutions in America. In the first term of the Obama presidency, she served as Secretary of State.
Clearly Hillary did not decide to run for the top office on a whim. This has been a long time coming and everything she has said and done in her life brings her to this moment.
The third important event that happened in the month of June is the decision by the British electorate to vote to leave the European Union (EU). The world woke up to the shock results on 24th June that Britain had voted to leave the EU. The British people clearly wanted out. Earlier on there was no telling whether the vote would go for leave or stay. The overall result to leave surprised even the British themselves. So, what then can be said is happening in this situation?
In keeping with the theme of this blog, my job is not to repeat history; my interest is in the common thread running through the events that I have highlighted this month. What are the attributes that reinforce a good thing for people to copy and achieve something great for themselves. Remember, great need not be ‘public’; i.e. there are many great things being done out there every single day. This blog continually tries to interpret themes and identify attributes that are driving or motivating events.
The three stories highlighted above depict the principle of Vision and Commitment. It is one principle that is common in the situations. Muhamad Ali could not have survived the rigors of a boxing career if he did not have a vision. He knew what he wanted to become and how. Things happened to him, like when he refused conscription into the army and faced a 3year ban plus imprisonment. He was unmoved, it cost him time and money but he had a bigger vision to which he had committed, bigger than himself when he made these choices. Hillary Clinton lost her first bid for nomination in 2008 to the current president Obama. Her early life was dotted with challenges, which, if she had decided differently, would have changed the complexion of her life. She didn’t give up. Instead she went on to become Secretary of State in the first Obama Administration and making her even more prepared for the role of president if she wins.
With respect to the EU grouping, the vision of a border-less market place accessible to all its members established way back in 1950 has changed. The members then were few and the focus was only on agriculture and trade. In recent years the role of the EU has continued to evolve to include many things. Today the EU is a fully fledged government dealing with many issues. It is also a huge cost center with contributions from as many members. The problems dealt with now include security, migration, refugees and yes, wars. The EU also takes a common position in many fora including the United Nations, space exploration, climate change etc. This change in vision is a clear case for exit for Britain. Even though she is stronger standing with the others, she was forced to exit and review her situation. For some time, Britain has been calling for reforms of the institution.
Work Ethic must follow the vision and the commitment. It is the practical application. A good work ethic produces results that are there for all to see. All three situations depict good work ethic given the success that they have achieved. The EU is the largest trading block outside of the USA. It is however true also that without total commitment, it goes to nothing. Britain’s’ exit from the grouping is a sign of the loss of commitment even to what started off as a good thing.
Talent: There is no doubt that in all situated alluded to, talent is the driving force. This is talent being put to good use. Talent is that inert reservoir or ability to do something and do it well. With commitment, vision and a good work ethic, talent can convert a good thing to something spectacular. Muhammad Ali was talented. He was a father, spouse, boxer, poet, civil rights activist, conciliator and philanthropist. He was at his best doing all these things. He consciously exploited all the talents that he had and all those around him attest to this. Hillary too is a talented woman. She is a mother, wife, as a women’s activist and reformer. As First Lady she was architect of many reforms benefiting women and children. As Secretary of State she was her country’s #1 Diplomat and traveled the world sorting out various issues. You cannot achieve that if you are mediocre. The European Union is a pool of talented individuals keeping the movement of various cogs moving in unison. The idea, the vision inspired the work ethics and decision making to meet its members’ goals.
Loyalty: When all else fails loyalty will keep things together. Ali was loyal to his fans, his family, friends and kept the faith of his religion throughout his life. He never looked down on anybody. In his later years the fans were loyal to him years after he had left the boxing ring. For Hillary her enduring loyalty has been to her trade as a public worker and also her family. This is quite evident because people in public life have difficulties separating their private and public lives. The enduring legacy of the EU will be its ability to galvanize 200+ million people to believe to the vision of free markets for all members; offer some semblance of unity and working together for the greater good. If this principle can still survive, the people in Europe will work hard to restore the vision through reforms.