Columns

The Way Forward — Mission of this Generation

ID: INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE

David Mullings

Sunday, September 02, 2012    

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CLARE Forrester took time in her most recent Media Corner column to congratulate me on achieving two years as a columnist, and I sincerely thank her. She also asked me to elaborate on the difference between a reporter, journalist and columnist since I indicated that I have got used to having to make that distinction.

A reporter reports news and current events, with no opinion. A journalist usually has formal training, generally has a specialised area, and has to follow editorial direction. A columnist writes personal opinion and sometimes backs up that opinion with selectively chosen facts. Columnists also control the content of their columns, taking no direction from an editor. The individual reading the news at night are reporters, Fareed Zakaria on CNN is a journalist, and I am a columnist. I hope that the difference is clear.

Generation 2000, the young professional affiliate of the Jamaica Labour Party, staged a forum in July in tribute to Jamaica's 50th Anniversary of Independence, under the theme "Jamaica: A Conversation of 50 Years & Beyond". I was asked, as an overseas Jamaican, to present in the section "The Way Forward — Mission of this Generation — A look at how our nation moves into the next 50 years and beyond and the prospects for this generation in shaping the face of Jamaica and the call to service of our nation by the youth." Unable to attend in person, due to prior travel arrangements, I recorded the speech at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition. Today, I present the text of my speech (the video can be seen at www.youtube.com/davidpmullings).

In my opinion, and based on my contacts and the work that I have been doing over the last few years, we believe that there are a number of ways that our generation can contribute. When I say we, I refer to a number of young Jamaicans under the age of 35, some who are very active, some a little active and others not very active in the diaspora movement, but still care a lot about Jamaica. We think it is important to realise that there is a mixture of Jamaicans; some who were born in Jamaica, raised there and went away for college then ended up staying, like myself. We have Jamaicans who left very young and are now in the United States, Canada, the UK, and elsewhere, but they do care about their homeland. Finally, we have Jamaicans who were born to Jamaican parents but in a different country, but that does not make them any less Jamaican.

All of us have opinions, all of us care about Jamaica, and it is important to recognise that we are still one nation. That is what we need to realise to contribute to the next 50 years. For too long we have focused on tribes, we talk about tribal politics, we talk about the colours that we were. It is important to recognise that in the next 50 years we have to move forward, not backward, not stay with the status quo. Move away from the tribal politics. I must congratulate G2K for inviting the Hon. Burchell Whiteman to speak tonight because that is a step in the right direction. We need to realise that it is not Team JLP or Team PNP or Team G2K, it is simply Team Jamaica and with this 50th year of the anniversary of our Independence and the Olympics coming up, nobody is there cheering for only one group of athletes. They are cheering for athletes representing Jamaica. That is important to the growth of the country.

Our generation is critical because we are the future leaders. We will become the next MPs, business leaders, lawyers, doctors, nurses, policemen, any aspect that you can think of. We will be taking over whether or not people want to allow us to or not. We must realise that comes with responsibility and so it is important that we get mentorship from those who are currently in power, those who are from the past. We can still learn from them. We do have ideas and want to be heard but we cannot afford to complain that we are not heard.

Go out and do something. It's not about talking, action, not 'a bag a mout'. Our generation grew up listening to songs like that, so I implore you as members of my generation to step up to the plate; say something, do something, take action, inspire others.

For those not in our generation, especially those who are older, guide us, do not hold us back. Provide a pathway and allow us to serve, give us a chance to give ideas, and that is how we will be able to give back to Jamaica.

The final thing that is critical for us to understand is that we need to change a brain drain to a brain gain as former Consul General Geneive Brown-Metzger says. We can do that in a very simple way: Everybody who has ever left Jamaica does not have to move back, in fact, the country cannot absorb everyone in the diaspora. However, knowledge can be transferred.

So I am speaking to my fellow Jamaicans who live outside of Jamaica and have hardly returned. You can share your knowledge. It is not enough to come back to Jamaica once in a while and be a tourist. It is not enough to come back and merely visit friends and family. It is not enough to do a medical mission once a year to assist individuals in Jamaica. You need to transfer skills, you need to transfer knowledge. That is how you will impact Jamaica going forward without having to move back. There is nothing wrong with coming back for three months and teaching at a university or becoming a mentor for a student at a university or a student that couldn't even get into university and may have dropped out of high school.

That is what we need to focus on. The brain drain has negatively impacted Jamaica in some ways, but it has also created revenue. Let's be honest, the people who have migrated have moved on to better paying jobs, earn more money and send some back as remittances. But remittances alone cannot help Jamaica to grow over the next 50 years. We must invest in our people, invest in our economy, and my generation, I am asking you to not repeat the mistakes of the past. If you have done well abroad, give back at home in some way, and it doesn't have to be charity. You can take someone under your wing and give them a chance to excel. If you have received opportunities that many Jamaicans do not have, work hard to allow Jamaicans to get some of the same opportunities.

Our generation is split in two; some in Jamaica and some outside of Jamaica. After the first and last Future Leaders Conference, it became very clear to me that having about 100 local Jamaicans and another 100 from the US, UK and Canada was critical. We do not interact with each other enough and it allowed the ones from abroad to understand the hardships faced by those on the ground. It also opened their eyes to projects already ongoing.

We need one Jamaica going forward, not one Jamaica of just those on the island, but one Jamaica across the world. We say "Jamaica to di worl'" so let us make that the mantra for our generation.

David Mullings is Chairman and CEO of Keystone Augusta and was the first Future Leaders Representative for the USA on the Jamaica Diaspora Advisory Board. He can be found on Twitter at twitter.com/davidmullings and Facebook at facebook.com/InteractiveDialogue

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