Friday, December 2, 2011

In these uncertain times, any Bahamian political leader must be able to speak to the emotions, hopes and dreams of his or her people

Why we need a Churchill

By Rishard P. O. Cooper

As I take in the news from around our majestic archipelago, and observe our seemingly downward social and economic spiral, I cannot help but be reminded of the appeasement policy British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and other European leaders followed during the late 1930s.  Chamberlain’s appeasement policy has been hotly debated ever since.  Some historians have concluded that the policy allowed Nazi Germany to grow too powerful.  Others argue that Chamberlain had no other choice under the circumstances.  In any event, Chamberlain lost the 1940 general election to Winston Churchill, a man who realized Adolf Hitler for who he was.  Churchill understood that negotiations with Hitler would bring neither peace nor security.  Churchill was a complex fellow, a heavy drinker, clairvoyant, witty, and an unabashed imperialist who was deeply loyal to his homeland.  No matter the odds, Churchill was literally prepared to fight until the end to preserve his country.  He was also an eloquent speaker who was able to inspire his people during some of his nation’s darkest hours.

We face serious problems

Churchill was the right person for the time, but woe to the country that needs a Churchill!  What I am getting at is that a country should not be taken to the brink of destruction or permit destructive forces to threaten its existence and way of life.  Here in The Bahamas, it appears that our country is in a similar predicament to the UK in the late 1930s.  Let me be clear, The Bahamas is not facing a threat on the scale of Nazi Germany, which committed some of the most unthinkable atrocities known to man.  Instead, my point is that we as Bahamians are at a point where the future direction of our country, our way of life, our culture, our standards of living, are in danger.  Already, this year we have had a record-breaking year in terms of murders, not to mention other violent crimes.  WWII arguably changed the fate of Europe drastically.  After the war, the United States became the dominant superpower, European colonialism began to crumble and to this day the Europeans have not been able to gain their pre-eminence on the international stage.

Churchill led Britain during turbulent, perilous times that required a leader who was up to the task.  Churchill possessed a rare combination of decisiveness, eloquence, tenacity and charm that made him a great leader.  Given the circumstances The Bahamas currently finds itself in, we need a leader who possesses a similar complement of talents such that he or she is able to speak to both the hearts and minds of Bahamians.  In these uncertain times, any Bahamian political leader must be able to speak to the emotions, hopes and dreams of his or her people.  Yes, a modern political leader must have a firm grasp of finance and economics.  However, any future prime minister of The Bahamas must also be a great communicator.  The reality on the ground is that many Bahamian people are disaffected and dejected.  To address this, our “Churchillian” leader must craft governmental policies to provide opportunity to the people and at the same time regularly and forcefully uplift and inspire the people.  This must be done hand in hand and with equal vigor and determination.  One without the other will not be enough.


Modern leaders have a lot more competition in capturing the attention of their people.  Today Bahamians are able to log on to the Internet with their laptops, iPads, Blackberries, or turn on cable and watch any number of entertaining programs from around the world.  In the 1930s when Roosevelt and Churchill dominated the political scene, there were less options to distract or attract citizens.  A skillful and innovative leader must realize this and formulate strategies to communicate with Bahamians on their own terms and in an entertaining and captivating manner.  Currently, many political videos are disseminated online via Facebook and Twitter.  I would encourage our government leaders to implement and create a series of short, inspirational videos targeting Bahamians in general.  However it is not enough to simply inspire through the use of flowery and hortatory language.  People want action.  Churchill said he would fight the enemy in the air, in the streets, in the hills, in the landing grounds, and he would never surrender!  That’s exactly what Churchill went about doing.  Our leaders must do the same.


Rishard Cooper is an international corporate attorney. Email feedback to:

Dec 02, 2011