All invited guests
OK, I have to get used to calling my own son President; I know for sure that it is an honor which has come out of merit. I think I know him better than anyone else here or elsewhere, except maybe his girlfriend! He is good! He is focused! He is a dedicated person! Most of all, he is very passionate! Those of you who have seen Alex with his camera equipment know what I am talking about! He will spend two hours at a pier in Munyonyo to take the perfect dawn shot! He never complains! He will simply roll up his sleeves and get into the trenches to work!
So it is fair and quite in order to thank the Rotaract Club of Kololo members for recognizing your potential Mr. President, and I am quite certain that you will serve beyond your members’ expectations. Your election as president is not a mere ritual. To me, it is the foundation of a good Rotary practice that the best possible candidates at any given time are allowed to occupy leadership slots.
Mr. President, a moment ago I spoke about your passion and commitment. It is only fair and in order, that should give an example. In 2007, Rotary International sponsored me to head a Group Study Exchange team composed of one man and five young ladies to Alberta in Canada and we spent there six weeks. Since what goes on in Alberta stays in Alberta, I will not give details of that trip. But this is my point: A company we now very well know as Blackberry or Research In Motion had just introduced a smartphone known as “Pearl”.
It was really brand new and very beautiful! I paid USD 580 for it. I then left it with someone at the shop to unlock it. Unfortunately, he disappeared with it! I was staying in the city of Calgary, for just a few days, since the import of the Programme then known as Group Study Exchange was to explore the culture and professional life of people around a particular region. So our group had to visit various cities in Alberta. Because of that, I left my phone with the Unlocker who as I said disappeared with it. In order to get a replacement, my Calgary host, a Rotarian, told the store that I was the Attorney General of Uganda and that he was going to report the theft to the Prime Minister of Canada and that this would spark an international incident. Canadian business is very averse to bad publicity. The store, called Rogers, immediately arranged a replacement Blackberry Pearl phone. When after six anxious weeks of waiting I returned to Calgary I was reunited with the Pearl and brought it back to Uganda.
That year 2007 in September, Uganda hosted CHOGM, and government for the first time imported en mass Blackberries. And we all know that in 2008 President Obama popularized those phones. A year after acquiring the Blackberry, I discovered iPhone and did one thing I did not know was one of the smartest things in my life: I donated the used Blackberry Pearl to Alex. The man fell headlong in love with the Pearl! Today, Alex is a telecoms engineer, I know, because of the Pearl! He is without exaggerating, president tonight because of the Pearl! That model of course eventually went out of production. But a love relationship had been created. It was total loyalty on the part of Alex! Even when Blackberry’s market share went down at the height of the iPhone craze and the rise of Samsung, Alex stayed loyal to Blackberry. He even bought shares in that company for he knew that when you are at the bottom of a pit and look up you see light and opportunity!
I sometimes look back and think about the man who stole my original Pearl. Wherever he is, he has no idea about a destiny he was destroying! I also remember my host in Calgary, who came up with the story that I was the attorney general of Uganda. Whatever he may be doing right now, he has no idea that by his words, he created a destiny for Alex. The moral of the story of Alex is that the world needs Pearls!
Mr. President, I emphasize, we need more pearls in this world! Each one of us here tonight must be a pearl to someone suffering somewhere. it does not matter whether you know the person or not, or whether he will ever know the role you played in transforming their life. This is totally in line with the new Rotary theme: Making a Difference!
You cannot make a difference unless you choose to become a pearl!
Be a pearl to someone. I have a personal story to tell. I grew up with my grandmother Thereza in Nassuuti, near Mukono town. She was a typical peasant woman. Every Saturday the whole family of grandchildren, about six of us, would trek to a nearby village called Nsambwe to cultivate a kibanja. We would grow bananas, Maize and coffee, at a very peasant level. It was simple life, but it was still life. That’s what we knew. I remember I would stare at cars from Mukono heading to Kayunga and wonder what kind of life the people who lived in those places led. From my perspective, those were the happy people on earth! They never had to wake up early in the morning at 5 am to walk six kilometers to Namiryango to study. That’s what I thought! So I longed to go to those places but poverty was biting us hard! When my father and mother separated when I was about six years old, it was my grandmother Thereza who took care of me. The only possession that woman had in life was her kibanja of about four acres. Indeed, when she died at 91 years of age, she left it to me. She was my pearl! Everybody in life needs a Pearl!
Be a pearl to someone today!
Mr. President, the year will go very fast you will be surprised! That is my experience as past president of the Rotary Club of Mengo. So make the most of your time. Be relevant to your members.
Be the true pearl you are! You will soon realize though, that as in all families, some people will support you, and some will oppose you. Try not to feel a sense of betrayal when those you have always regarded as your friends turn against you. It is nothing personal. It goes with the office. Instead, try to understand and move. The moment you become a leader, oh yes, even in a service organization, guns will turn against you! If no one criticizes you, be worried, very worried! Something will be very wrong! Criticism is the engine of improvement!
The surest way of turning those guns at those who oppose you is to be very transparent. Be transparent to a fault. Let your intentions be clear to everybody. Do not have favorite members. Just do your work: Lead. Do not rule. Listen to everybody. But the hard decisions have to be yours and you must live with the consequences. Do not pass the buck to anybody. You are the president. Period!
Remember that you have only one goal during your brief tenure as president. Be steadfast in the pursuit of this one goal. Just concentrate on that one goal:
Be like a pearl, shine brightly, and sharply reflect light. A fine pearl will reflect your image like a mirror. Let your members see themselves when they look at you. Like a good pearl, do not steal the show in the way diamonds do it.
Instead, enhance the natural beauty of the wearers, your members. Your presidency will be a success only if your individual members can say yes my president supported me to achieve such and such a goal; I am a better Rotaractor as a result; I have had fun in the year; I have served my community; I am a very happy person; my life has meaning! I am a Pearl!
Peters K. Musoke.